OUR new columnist, Lee Conetta, is Glasgow food royalty, with many years experience helping to run one of the city’s biggest restaurant groups. Each fortnight in Times Out, she will share memories of her life less ordinary, and the food she loves to cook. This week, Mrs Conetta shares some lockdown cooking tips for healthy kids’ meals and rustles up a hearty Italian soup…

Glasgow Times:

THE way children are fed will affect their dietary choices for the rest of their lives.

It is imperative to teach them the importance of healthy food.

My daughter Marcella and my son Antony loved to eat when they were young – they ate what I gave them. Lasagne was my signature dish.

Marcella loved sausages with potatoes and onions and thick gravy, or fried chicken in sweet white wine. She also loved shepherd’s pie and an Italian dish called carne patate, or stew potatoes, with a tomato sauce. Antony loved sugo – an Italian tomato sauce made with oxtail – and steak pie.

They both adored the meatballs my husband Joe made. He also made a great apple pie, and insisted it had to be baked on a plate.

Glasgow Times:

Both Marcella and Antony are very good cooks now. In normal times, there is nothing we like more than to gather around a table having good food and lovely wine with lively conversation. It is the thing I miss the most.

Eating out, the curse of the British menu is the kiddies’ fare - chicken nuggets, fish fingers and so on. These are fine if you make them from fresh, but very few do.

Once in a restaurant on an Italian holiday, I saw a family on the next table to us, a mother, father and three-year-old, all having the same meal - minestrone followed by spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) and I was completely blown away to see this little boy tucking into this meal with gusto.

A healthy child will be a healthy adult.

Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Cooking with Mrs Conetta: A remarkable meeting and a tasty Tuscan dish

In this country, we need to inspire our children by making them passionate about food and giving them the skills to cook for themselves. Children have classes in ballet, and music, and sports, so why not cooking?

As lockdown restrictions continue, this is the perfect time to teach children healthy recipes using fresh seasonal products. A little effort is required but it will stand them and their families in good stead for the rest of their lives.

For all you parents who are home schooling, I would like to suggest a few tips for feeding the kids with minimum effort.

Boil up a chicken stock cube, add some cooked pasta and beat in an egg for a quick and tasty chicken soup.

Spread a chicken breast with mayonnaise and marmalade on top and cook in the oven for 30 minutes for a delicious dish.

READ MORE: Cooking with Mrs Conetta: beef braciole

Back to this week’s recipe. Inspired by that family’s meal, I’d like to share my minestrone recipe with you. Italians like to eat in the way their parents and grandparents did and there are several ways to make this.

Different regions have their own style..this is mine. Enjoy.



225g dried or tinned haricot beans (If using dried, they must be soaked overnight)

4 litres of water

Large pinch of salt

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 stalks of celery, sliced

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 to 4 courgettes, sliced

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

4 potatoes, chopped


225g of small pasta shapes, or break up spaghetti into small pieces

2 tablespoons pesto

6 tablespoons of pecorino or parmesan cheese


The vegetables in this soup can be changed according to the season. Sometimes, I like to add some chopped cabbage.

If you are using dried beans, after them overnight, partially cook them in unsalted water. If you are using tinned beans, add to a large pot with the water, salt, onion, celery, carrot and oil.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour.

Add the courgettes, tomatoes and potatoes and cook for a further 30 mins. Add the pasta and stir in the pesto and the cheese. After around 15 minutes, serve.