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Craig Barritt/Getty Images Rao's Homemade
Busy Philipps is probably best known for her starring roles in cult-classic shows, like Freaks and Geeks and Dawson's Creek. More recently, Philipps' work on Peacock's Girls5eva has garnered even more rave reviews for the talented actress—and if you spend much time on Instagram, you've probably seen at least one of the actress's posts. Philipps is a master of the front-facing Instagram story, posting cute moments with her kids alongside confessionals about how she does, in fact, love spaghetti.
Philipps loves pasta so much, we caught up with her at The Saucery (last weekend's pop-up presented by Rao's Homemade, maker of delicious pasta sauces, dried pasta and other tasty pantry essentials), where she shared her mom's recipe for stuffed shells (made with Rao's Homemade arrabbiata sauce, of course) and chatted about what she loves making for her own kids.
The first goal of just about any meal, Philipps says, is finding the sweet spot of something that's "pretty easy but so delicious," like her stuffed shells. That's why her go-to family dinner has just three ingredients: ground turkey, marinara sauce and penne.
Philipps simply cooks the ground turkey with seasonings of her choice (a combination of garlic powder and Italian seasoning blend would do the trick), then adds in a bottle of Rao's Homemade marinara—which our editors also love—for a quick meat sauce that tastes slow-cooked. If Philipps is in the mood for veggies, sometimes she'll trade her penne for spaghetti squash or add some spinach to everyone's sauce, which sounds pretty tasty to us.
"I love how easy this recipe is," says Victoria Seaver, M.S., RD, EatingWell's associate editorial director. "Using healthy shortcut ingredients, like the jarred pasta sauce Philipps uses in this recipe, is a great way to cut down on prep time and overall effort. And we're all for mixing in some veggies! If you want to copy this recipe at home, I'd recommend using a box of whole-wheat pasta for a little extra fiber and protein."
Philipps, who is partnering with Rao's Homemade for the second time, says Rao's sauce is a staple in her kitchen—she uses it for stuffed shells, turkey pasta and even one of her favorite frittata recipes. "I'm a big fan of making things as easy and delicious as possible," Philipps says. "I think that's kind of what we all want anyway." And if she can find a marinara sauce that tastes as good as homemade, Philipps is always happy to have a pantry shortcut on hand.
When her penne is ready to go, she serves up a plate for her two kids, Birdie (age 13) and Cricket (age 8), who are usually happy to dig right in. "Cricket, if she's in a mood—because Cricket's my very picky eater—she's 8, almost 9, I will sometimes just have to do buttered noodles, and I give her a little bit on the side," says Philipps, referring to serving just a little bit of the pasta with meat sauce. "I'm just like 'You have to just try it, you gotta try it.' They say you have to keep doing that with picky-eater kids, you have to just keep putting it in front of them and asking them to try it."
And while sometimes a request for buttered noodles adds one more step to making dinner, it's a step Philipps is happy to take—she doesn't want to pass on any negative messaging around food to her kids. "Even though I tell you that Cricket is a very picky eater, I don't ever say to Cricket, 'Well, you can't just eat pasta and butter, it's not good for you,' because that just is sending a message that there are good and bad foods, and I just don't believe that to be true anymore," Philipps says.
Philipps, who has been acting since 1999, says she heard too much negative talk about body image and healthy eating as a young person working in Hollywood. Now she's ready to just share the food she loves with the people she loves—and that means no "caveats or disclaimers or commentary." Sounds like a good plan to us.
"Philipps' approach to healthy eating with her kids is spot on. We here at EatingWell agree that all foods can be part of a healthy diet, and instilling that belief from a young age is a great way to help your kids build a healthy relationship with food," says Seaver.
You can still sneak a peek at the Rao's Homemade Saucery online, where all proceeds went to Jersey Cares, a nonprofit focused on organizing volunteers, donation drives and other nonprofit events for causes in New Jersey and surrounding states. Or pick up a jar of the sauce at your grocery store for your next pasta night in—Philipps recommends the arrabbiata, marinara and vodka sauces.