What’s for Dinner?

We celebrate animal birthdays pretty often at the Virginia Zoo, and this week Chef Yohn got involved to create something tasty for the African lions to feast upon. Mramba turned 15 on July 8, and Zola will be turning 13 on July 17. The pair are also active parents to not-so-little-anymore cub Emery, who also got to chow down in honor of his parents’ birthdays.

The lions at the Zoo receive a special “Nebraska Feline Diet”, which is ground meat equipped with all of the minerals and nutrients they need. Twice a week Keepers switch up the trio’s diets with their favorite foods: a rack of ribs for Zola and Emery to share, and a large rabbit for Mramba.

Chef Yohn was really proud of this recipe for the ultimate big cat meal: delicious “Serengeti” and meatballs. The fare sounds exactly as you’d expect; boiled pasta noodles topped with insatiable meatballs, with a slight sprinkle of cauliflower “cheese” to top it all off. The only question is, how did our pride of lions like their dinner? Read the recipe to find out!

SERENGETI and meatballs


• 2.5 lbs Nebraska Feline Diet meat

• 1 box of spaghetti or fettuccine noodles

• 1/4 head cauliflower, crumbled

• (optional) Blue food coloring


1. Grab a palm full of meat and gently roll into a ball.

2. Repeat until you have 12 meatballs or used all of the meat.

3. Freeze meatballs overnight.

4. After freezing overnight, remove meatballs and allow to thaw.

5. Boil water.

6. Add food coloring until desired color.

7. Add pasta and boil for 15 – 20 minutes.

8. Drain pasta and separate evenly into two servings.

9. Top with meatballs.

10. Sprinkle cauliflower “cheese” on top.

11. Serve!

After finding a hidden meatball under his barrel toy, Mramba let Zola and Emery dig in first, and waited in the shade until they were finished eating. Zola preferred the meatballs, while Emery was intrigued by the delicious blue pasta.

It looks like everyone enjoyed the Serengeti and Meatballs during this month’s Animeals. Join us next month to see what unique recipe Chef Yohn will come up with!