Magic sauce and snaky breadsticks: David Atherton's easy recipes for children

David Atherton
·4 min read

Magic tomato sauce

This fresh tomato sauce is made from lots of different vegetables. It’s magic because it can be made ahead of time, ready to be used for so many different meals. Try adding some to your favourite pasta or veggie noodles. It makes so many meals magic!

Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
Makes 2 portions

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
50ml water
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
½ green pepper, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves , peeled
1 tsp table salt

Tip both tins of tomatoes into a medium saucepan and add the water. Bring to a simmer on a medium heat.

Add the onion, carrot, celery and pepper to the saucepan. Finely grate the garlic and add this with the salt.

Simmer for 30 minutes over a medium heat, then tip into a blender and whizz until smooth. Leave to cool.

Divide into two portions and keep in the fridge for up to three days, or freeze.

Perfect pasta bake

This is your chance to perfect your own signature pasta bake. Mine has broccoli, peas, basil and oregano in it, but you can choose whatever fillings you want. You can also choose your favourite pasta shape. I like spaghetti because it looks like worms when it’s cooked – and it’s messy and fun to eat!

Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 6

300g pasta shapes (whichever you like)
2 portions magic tomato sauce
300g broccoli
200g frozen peas
1 bunch basil
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Boil the pasta as per the cooking instructions and drain.

Put the tomato sauce into a large bowl and add the cooked pasta. Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/gas 7.

Chop the broccoli into florets, then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and add to the pasta.

Add the frozen peas, tear in the basil, and sprinkle in the oregano and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together and transfer to a large baking dish.

Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Snaky breadsticks

I love making bread because you can bash it around with your hands. It can be tricky to roll out, but don’t rush, and eventually you’ll get a lovely long (and a little scary-looking) snake. Remember that they will rise in the oven, so you need to make them very thin, but you can twist them into any shape you want. I like to make the breadsticks swim in some soup before I bite the head off.

Prep 40 min
Rest 1 hr 20 min
Cook 10 min
Makes 8

800g plain flour
2 tsp table salt
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp fast-action yeast
1 medium carrot,
peeled and finely grated
700ml milk
100ml warm water
Poppy seeds,
to decorate
Coarse polenta or cornmeal, to decorate
1 red pepper
16 currants

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/gas 4. Put the flour, salt, paprika and yeast in a mixing bowl.

Mix the carrot, milk and water in a jug. Pour into the bowl and stir until you have a sticky dough. Cover with a damp cloth for 10 minutes.

Knead the dough on a floured surface for five minutes. (It may be sticky, but don’t add any more flour.)

Put it back in the bowl and cover with a damp cloth until it has doubled in size. (This may take up to an hour.)

Punch all the air out of it and divide into eight pieces. Dust your worktop with flour and use your hands to roll a piece of dough into a long, thin sausage.

Sprinkle some poppy seeds and the polenta/cornmeal onto a plate and then roll your bread snake in it. Choose one end to be the head, cut a little mouth with scissors and add a tongue made from red pepper. Add currants for eyes.

Repeat with the rest of the dough, then shape the snakes on baking trays lined with baking paper. Leave for 10 minutes then bake for eight to ten minutes until golden brown.

Recipes from My First Cook Book © 2020 David Atherton, illustrated by Rachel Stubbs (Walker Books). To order a copy for £13.04, go to