Learning with Lil’ Sprouts: Pasta Salad

Learning with Lil’ Sprouts: Pasta Salad 


How best to keep a dozen kids grades K-4 engaged in a cooking class? I ask myself this as I start my first semester teaching two classes with Lil’ Sprouts. The answer, it turns out, is not to plan a class around all the foods kids say they want to cook (cheeseburgers, cookies and French fries are regular requests) but rather to plan a lesson that keeps each student occupied and working with their hands throughout the class.

My philosophy for teaching is less watching and more doing. Today we are making pasta salad. Each student will chop their own vegetables, herbs and cheese and make their own dressing. I pass out the ingredients for chopping one at a time, which allows the students to focus on cutting one item before moving on to the next. Students learn how cutting a tomato is different from cutting a pepper. Everyone cuts their food a little differently. Some cut meticulously and chop their items as small and uniform as possible. Others forego uniformity and cut their food into mosaics. Remembering that Lil’ Sprouts is not Le Cordon Blue, I dole out praise regularly and encourage my students to make something they are excited to eat. Perfection is not the goal. We are here to foster a lifelong interest in cooking and eating nutritious foods while simultaneously having fun.

Students are eager to contribute their skills and excited to share their existing knowledge of cooking with the class. They share what they have learned to cook at home and what kind of food their family members like. As the noodles cook, students take turns stirring the pot. Who likes the smell of cooking noodles? I ask and every hand in the room goes up. Next, each student makes their own dressing, incorporating olive oil, vinegar, mustard and lemon juice. At the end of the lesson, everyone’s pasta salad is a bit different: some chunky, others rustic, some heavy on the cheese, others full of cherry tomatoes. When the cooking is
complete, it’s time for the best part of the day: eating. Finally, the room gets quiet. Students swap bites of their creations, savor a tangy noodle and write down today’s recipe. As class wraps up, the students eagerly ask: what are we making next week?!

Recipe: Pasta Salad



Cutting board
Hot plate


Pasta of choice
Cherry tomatoes (about 2-3 per student)
Mini sweet peppers (about 1 per student)
Cubed cheese (about 2 cubes per student)
Fresh herbs of choice
Olive oil
Vinegar of choice
Sunflower seeds
Lemons, precut into 8 slices
High quality salt
Fresh cracked pepper


  1. Pass out vegetables to students, one vegetable type at a time.
  2. When vegetables are chopped, pass out herbs and have students tear using their hands.
  3. Next pass out cheese and have students cut into smaller pieces.
  4. While students chop, cook the pasta. As the pasta cooks, have students come up to the
    pot, one at a time, and stir. Assist students with stirring as needed and supervise.
  5. Once items are chopped, have students each prepare their own dressing.
  6. Help students pour olive oil, vinegar and mustard into their bowls. Allow them to hold
    the bottle and count out loud for them to two or three so they know when to stop
  7. Pass out pre-cut lemon slices and have students squeeze lemon into their dressing.
  8. Pour salt into student’s hand and have them add salt to their bowl.
  9. Have students add their chopped ingredients into dressing, pass out pasta and
    sunflower seeds for topping.


Post by Meredith Kaufman, Lil’ Sprouts Instructor


Submit a Comment

Recent Posts

January 2024 Letter

  We’ve been hard at work to bring so many exciting things to fruition, which we couldn’t be more thrilled about. The changing of the year has brought a new staff member, new Snail of Approval awardees, the launching of a brand new program, and more. In the first...

A Positive Take on Social Media

Many have chosen to take a break from social media with the start of the new year – an effort worth commending. We’ve all fallen victim to doom scrolling and lost minutes or even hours of our lives to the black hole that the internet can become. While there are...

December Letter: Entering the New Year

It’s upon us, a new year in the form of 2024. The changing of the year can bring so many different reactions and emotions. As a team, our sincerest hope is that the coming year brings joy and opportunity for you and your loved ones. However, we acknowledge that...

Being a Conscious Consumer this Holiday Season.

It's upon us, the season of celebration filled with joy and gathering. As we embrace a time of giving and receiving, I’d like to suggest we approach it with intention and care. I mean many things by this, but primarily the predictable suggestion to consciously consume...

Announcing the Snail Trail!

Slow Food Denver is excited to announce the launch of the Snail Trail. It is a dining passport that will take you on an eating adventure with coupons from a dozen of Denver’s restaurants & food organizations that are aligned with our Chapter’s efforts for good,...

At Home Soil Conservation

At Home Soil Conservation  The use of fertile land for crops is essential for our society. However, a report on agriculture notes that US soil is seeing high soil degradation and a drop in soil fertility. To make up for this loss, farmers use fertilizers containing...