Before you know it, the weekend rolls around, and you’ve drawn a blank in the kitchen – what’s a mama to do? Does the word pasta sound familiar? Whether plain, whole meal or gluten-free, if you’re like me, more often than not: you’ve probably thought it’s time to give yourself a well-earned break and have ended up cooking a surplus of pasta than you can poke a stick at

If so? We’ve got you, mama. 

In this blog, we are going to show you how to turn your pasta leftovers into 5 new lunchtime kids’ meals for the week with a zero-waste sensibility – so you can conveniently place them in your child’s IFJ to keep them temperature friendly: whether it’s warm and cheesy macaroni for lunch, or cool corkscrew-shaped pasta for an afternoon snack! for kids insulated food jar with pasta leftovers


leftovers for lunch: 5 dishes from your leftover pasta

Whether your go-to is fusilli, macaroni, spaghetti, or cannelloni – pasta is so versatile and easy to heat up with a host of different flavours, vegetables, protein and a host of ingredients - that no doubt: your kid’s eyes will light up at the mere mention of the word P-A-S-T-A.


Here’s a fun fact - did you know that in Italy, Bolognese is known as ‘tagliatelle al ragù’? The reason it’s called Bolognese in our part of the world, harks back to World War 2, when American soldiers passed through the city of Bologna and fell in love with this delicious meat sauce. Wanting to replicate this slowly cooked meat-based sauce back home, they could not remember its original name. So, it became the sauce of Bologna, the Bolognese sauce.

Not complete without a dollop of fresh grated Parmigiano cheese on top, this Italian delicacy is not only super easy to make, but so nutritious due to tomatoes being a key ingredient of the sauce, dusted with onion, celery, and carrot, which are chopped so finely your littlies won’t even see them in the dish!


  • • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • • 1 kg beef mince
  • • ½ cup (110g) tomato paste
  • • ¾ cup (185 ml) stock
  • • 1 x 400g can of diced tomatoes
  • • 1 x 700g bottle passata


1. heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onion is softened. Add mince and cook, stirring to break up lumps for 5 minutes or until browned.

2. add the tomato paste and stock to mince mixture and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until stock reduces slightly.

3. add the diced tomato and passata and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until sauce thickens.

tips for IFJ eaters

  • • can divide leftovers into 3 to 4 cup portions and place in airtight fill + freeze containers for up to 3 months.
  • • can refrigerate for up to 3 days and thaw in the fridge overnight.
  • • before placing food in Insulated Food Jar, reheat portion in a microwave-safe container/bowl. Or fill the stainless steel IFJ base with hot water for a few minutes to warm it, before pouring water out + filling with delicious food.
  • • keeps food cold for up to 7 hours, and warm for up to 5 hours.


 child with for kids insulated food jar with pasta leftovers

pesto chicken

Got some leftover fettuccine noodles on hand? There’s nothing like the whiff of freshly ground basil with extra-virgin olive oil, Parmigiano cheese and golden chunks of chicken breast to get everybody’s tummies rumbling!

Here is a fun + healthy fact - did you know that pesto contains a myriad of antioxidants and aids in tempering your blood pressure? This hero ingredient will not only keep you and your kids healthy, but can also help boost your immune system as well as improve your skin health with vitamins of A, C + E.  Best of all, it is an uncooked sauce – containing only three ingredients using a food processor or blender.


  • • 2 fresh basil (firmly packed)
  • • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (finely grated)
  • • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • • 400g chicken breast fillet (cut into slices)

instructions for regular pesto sauce

1. place the basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts and cheese in a food processor or blender carefully and slowly until beginning to mix.

2. add the oil and carefully mix until combined and chunky but not overly smooth. Stir in the salt and pepper to taste and set it aside.

3. bring a frying pan to medium heat and add oil. Cook chicken until golden brown on all sides and put it to the side.

4. bring a large, salted pot of water to a boil and reheat your leftover fettuccine.

5. toss chicken through with pesto and pasta, serve immediately.

and if you are a little more adventurous…

pesto alla trapanese

Fancy going a little nutty? This variant of pesto, popular in Sicily, incorporates the standard ingredients of basil, parmesan cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil, yet differs by adding Pachino tomatoes, garlic, and almonds. While the Pachino tomatoes give the pesto a light and sweet flavour, the addition of almonds adds a bit of earthy nuttiness to this style of pesto sauce.

pesto agli agrumi

Feeling a little fruity? Agrumi adds the juice of lemons or oranges instead of pine nuts, making your pesto sauce fresh and zesty instead – great with seafood or other types of fish!

tips for IFJ eaters

  • • divide leftovers into 3 to 4 cup portions and place in airtight fill + freeze containers or portion off in individual plastic bags for up to 3 months in freezer.
  • • can also refrigerate for up to 3 days and thaw in the fridge overnight
  • • before placing food in Insulated Food Jar, reheat portion in a microwave-safe container/bowl. Or fill the stainless steel IFJ base with hot water for a few minutes to warm it, before pouring water out + filling with delicious food.
  • • keeps food cold for up to 7 hours, and warm for up to 5 hours.


insulated food jar - strawberry shake

meatball pasta

Got some leftover spaghetti overflowing in your pot? Fancy some comfort food that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters? Then say hello to Italian meatballs - the piece de resistance of all recipes. They can be fried in batches to develop a delicious golden crust - whatever combo of sauce you plan to flavour it with.


  • • 454g spaghetti
  • • 454g ground beef
  • • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • • 1 large egg
  • • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • • 1 bay leaf
  • • freshly ground black pepper


1. in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain.

2. in a large bowl, combine beef with breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, egg, garlic, 1 tsp salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix until just combined then form into sixteen balls.

3. in a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add meatballs and cook for 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Transfer the meatballs to a plate.

4. add onion to pot and cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Return meatballs to pot and cover. Simmer until sauce has thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.

tips for IFJ eaters

  • • let cooked meatballs and sauce cool completely, then transfer some to a freezer in heavy-duty aluminium foil or freezer bags, and others to reheat the next day (will last up to 4 days in the fridge).
  • • -to reheat for the next day, can place the meatballs and sauce on the stove or microwave them before placing in IFJ.
  • • FYI mamas … take care not to leave your cooked meatballs at room temperature. Cooked meatballs are considered unsafe to eat when left out for more than two hours. This is because bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 4.4 °C and 60 °C, so leaving meatballs out for too long, especially in a hot room, can cause it to spoil. 

cheesy chicken and broccoli pasta

Struggling to get your littlies to eat their greens? This cheesy pasta recipe is sure to get them loving those oh-so-dreaded broccoli!

Broccoli is an amazing source of essential nutrients like vitamins C, A, K, and B vitamins, along with minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium. Talk about a veggie that packs a punch!

These nutrients are crucial for kids' growth, immune function, and overall well-being. Combined with a lean protein like chicken (leftover rotisserie chicken is perfect for this recipe!), and an added fix of dairy, this is the perfect meal to keep your child fuller for longer.


  • • 400g small pasta (such as rotini or bowties)
  • • 1/2 cup cooked and shredded chicken
  • • 1/4 cup cooked and chopped broccoli florets
  • • 1/4 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • • 1/4 cup milk
  • • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • • salt and pepper to taste
  • • parmesan (*to serve)


1. bring a pot of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. in a medium saucepan, add the milk and bring to a simmer. Gently stir in the cheddar until melted through, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

3. in a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, shredded chicken, and chopped broccoli with the cheesy mixture. Mix well until combined.

tips for IFJ eaters

  • • divide leftovers into 3 to 4 cup portions, allow to cool completely and place in airtight containers.
  • • can also refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • • before placing food in IFJ, reheat portion in a microwave-safe container/bowl. Or fill the stainless steel IFJ base with hot water for a few minutes to warm it, before pouring water out + filling with delicious food.
  • • IFJ keeps food cold for up to 7 hours, and warm for up to 5 hours.


mini IFJ

slow-roasted pumpkin and feta cheese

If your family aren’t fans of meat or chicken, why not opt for a super-creamy veggie sauce that packs a punch, like a whizzed up slow-roasted pumpkin and feta cheese combo to your leftover pasta, which can be just as satisfying?

The sweetness of the pumpkin and the saltiness of the feta - along with an optional dash of spinach and walnuts are a perfect match for your kid’s hungry appetite!

Did you know that pumpkin is packed with nutrients, such as beta-carotene and fibre? Our bodies use beta-carotene to produce vitamin A. In fact, according to dieticians, half a cup of pumpkin provides 200 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin A, along with lutein and zeaxanthin, which are pigments that promote eye health.

Not only are they low in calories – but pumpkin is also rich in potassium too, which helps our muscles contract and boosts our nerves as well. Even their pumpkin seeds are known to be nutritious!

And feta cheese? Produced from goat’s milk, and only from certain areas in Greece, feta contains the most calcium compared to other cheese types – helping you and your family protect your teeth and bones!


  • • 500g roma tomatoes
  • • 4 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
  • • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • • 100 g feta
  • • 400 g pasta
  • • 30g walnuts (optional)
  • • thyme (optional)
  • • parmesan (*to serve)


1. preheat oven to 160°C (140°C fan-forced). Peel and chop pumpkin, and quarter tomatoes. Place in a baking pan with unpeeled garlic cloves and olive oil. Toss to combine, seasoning well. Bake for 1-1.5 hours until soft and caramelised.

2. place pumpkin and tomatoes in a blender or food processor with feta. Pop the garlic cloves out of their peels and add them as well. Blitz until smooth.

3. add leftover pasta to the pan and toss well to coat. Serve with shaved parmesan and a side salad.

4. fyi … you can make the sauce ahead of time and reheat just prior to serving.

tips for IFJ eaters

  • • to prevent pasta from becoming a mushy, gummy mess, place your leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator
  • • when ready to reheat, heat a saucepan over medium heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add your leftover pasta, sauce, and some fresh garlic and sauté for about two to three minutes, until hot, then place in Insulated Food Jar
  • • otherwise, place in a microwave-safe glass bowl or jar and toss in a splash of water before heating for one minute. Stir pasta and continue heating in one-minute increments until warm. Once the pasta is ready, give container a shake to loosen any noodles stuck together
  • • fyi mamas … make sure the lid is sealed tightly first.

So, there you have it mums, dads, and caregivers - these 5 new convenient recipes will not only make your surplus of pasta sing with joy; but will also fill your children’s IFJs and tummies: with plenty of smiles, happiness and joy. 


Check our or range of insulated food jars here


about the author


Nicole Salinger is the chief copywriter and mental health first aider at She has raised 4 humans of her own + is super-passionate about supporting mums worldwide on their motherhood journeys: through her words. Her writing covers a range of wellbeing subjects: including self-care, psychological wellbeing, personal growth, and mental health.

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