In this wacky world right now, I’ve found my way back to cooking. You?

Now, when I say I found my way back to cooking, I don’t mean that I’ve been feeding my children frozen meals for the past four years (obviously). It’s just that after the enthusiasm I poured into my cookbook (alongside raising my first daughter), I started to get jaded in the kitchen. Because let’s face it, being a mom AND preparing nourishing, delicious meals AND running your own business is f*ing hard. Is it not? (There is only one correct answer).

Instead, I became a short order cook, scrambling around making everyone happy and filling bellies before meltdowns. And besides, I don’t really know anyone who really loves to be a short order cook. So with motherhood, it seemed the intricate pies of my past were gone. Poof!

But here’s the kicker. It wasn’t just that I had to let go of the elaborate dishes, themed potlucks, and food photography. I had to let go of my perfectionism. I had to let go of my control. I had to re-learn how to cook quick, easy, good food on the fly with two magical and dependent creatures flitting around me the whole time.

Enter: Covid 19.

Marinara Pantry Pasta with Tuna and Broccoli by Emma Frisch in Ithaca, New York; easy pantry recipe for quarantine cooking during social distance due to Covid-19.

Cooking is now an everyday, three times a day, activity! AND WE ALL LOVE IT (most of the time). We make huge messes and clean it up. Even Ayla washes the dishes (on occasion). We find resourceful ways to reinvent our favorite foods if we’re out of an ingredient, and we come up with new recipes to shake things up.

And probably my favorite outcome is that the girls are up for making cooking videos with me, which as you might know, is a long-time passion of mine and has felt impossible in the context of motherhood. (We’ll see how long it takes for the novelty to wear off).

So here is the first in a series on “Cooking with Kids” that I’ll hopefully be bringing to you weekly. But really, who the heck knows when the next one will be out! The only thing I do know is that planning is folly right now. I’m taking it day-by-day and when bursts of creative passion arise and the stars align, I follow it. Sometimes it takes days to follow it through. Sometimes I have kids paint on my face. Some days I actually get dressed. Others I’m in my pajamas. You’ll see.

Ultimately, my hope is to bring you right into my kitchen and show you how you can do the same thing at home with your kiddos. Starting now. These videos are raw and unplanned. YES. That means I will say “girls, we have to make [insert recipe] today,” and they will come scrambling into the kitchen. I ask Ayla if she wants to film it (sorry Cora, she can’t really consent yet) and if Ayla says “YES” then we do. There’s screaming and spills, and giggling and gargling and eventually we make something. And it’s all captured on camera because life is REAL.

This Pantry Pasta is inspired by my brother, who didn’t really learn how to cook until he turned 30 (though I can tell you my mom tried). He is now 31, lives in Manhattan and the majority of his adult meals have been takeout or in a restaurant. Fast forward to Coronacation: he has cooked every single one of his meals for the past four weeks. And by that I mean mostly pasta. Which is fitting for his 6 foot 4 inch frame and flock of red hair, like my girls. He ate three plates of pasta a day in high school, and never stopped.

So here’s to my redheaded bro, Sebastian, and all of you who love pasta: an incredibly simple, satisfying dish you can adapt to your own pantry!


Pantry Pasta with Marinara Sauce, Tuna and Broccoli

Marinara Pantry Pasta with Tuna and Broccoli by Emma Frisch in Ithaca, New York; easy pantry recipe for quarantine cooking during social distance due to Covid-19.

An easy, kid-approved recipe that will satisfy the whole family. You can adapt this recipe to what you have in your own freezer and pantry. Swap frozen broccoli for peas, and canned wild-caught tuna for salmon. Add an extra can if your family enjoys the flavor of seafood or wants extra protein. You can also make marinara sauce from scratch; I like to make it in bulk and freeze extra for adding to soups, making pizza, or marinara-braised chicken in the Instant Pot for shredded chicken tacos. Serve with grated parmigiano cheese if desired.

  • Author: Emma Frisch
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 68 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • One 12-ounce bag brown rice pasta (or preferred variety)
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade
  • 12 cans wild-caught tuna packed in olive oil or water, drained
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained or rinsed if packed in salt (or more to taste)
  • One 10-ounce bag frozen broccoli (or 2 cups fresh broccoli florets), steamed
  • Olive oil, drizzled to taste


Once you’ve prepared all the components, mix the marinara sauce into the pasta. Add the tuna and capers and mix again, distributing the tuna evenly throughout. Fold in the broccoli last and finish the pasta with a healthy pour of olive oil. 


An excellent source of canned salmon is Wild For Salmon. Find the recipe for Homemade Marinara Sauce in my cookbook, Feast By Firelight

Keywords: italian cooking, kid-friendly recipe, pantry cooking, pantry recipe, emma frisch, wild tuna, corona cooking, quarantine cooking

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A HUGE thank you to Eric Harris, our Ithaca College student intern and brilliant video editor.