Activities: Make Homemade Pasta
Keep your little Emeril busy while you whip up dinner.
- High chair:With a tray—or your kid will be making pasta in her lap.
- Newspaper or a big vinyl tablecloth:To keep the flour off the floor.
- Your kid:With clean hands.
- Flour:Plain old all-purpose.
- Egg Beaters:Or other pasteurized egg product. You'll need about ¼ cup.
- Pot of boiling, salted water
- First things first. Put something down on the floor around your baby's high chair. Newspaper is fine, but a large vinyl tablecloth or a high chair floor mat is even better.
- Next, wash your kid's hands thoroughly. (No need to add any "unidentified objects" to her pasta.)
- When she's all clean and ready to go, make a little mountain out of a cup of flour in the middle of the highchair tray and place about ¼ cup of the Egg Beaters in the middle, like a volcano.
- Now, let your kid at it. It may take a tiny bit of encouragement to get her to splash her hands in the egg and mix it up at first, but once she gets the hang of it, she'll start mashing it into perfectly delicious pasta dough.
- If you want to add a teensy smidge of olive oil, or a tiny splash of water, go ahead, but go easy—you'll only need a little.
- As your bambino smooshes, the dough goes through three stages before it's ready. At first the egg isn't completely incorporated and your baby will enjoy its slimy, slippery texture and the mini-clouds of flour she makes as she pats it. (It's easy for kids to get carried away with the enjoyment of the flour clouds, so you may have to temper her excitement so that there'll actually be some flour left to make the dough!)
- Talk to your baby about the textures, colors and smells she's experiencing while she's mixing. Tell her the egg is slimy and that the flour is white and soft. Explain that the dough is getting sticky and mushy. Ask older kids to tell you about what they're feeling.
- The more baby mashes, the more the two ingredients incorporate (and the more nerve endings your baby stimulates—science and supper!). To get it evenly mixed, you'll occasionally need to scrape more of the flour off the highchair tray and into the mushy part.
- The second stage of the dough is like mud—very thick and very sticky. We're betting your kid has some experience playing with mud, but if she's having trouble, push the flour in and around with her hands, to make the dough less muddy and more dough-like. Again, describe the process for her. Is the dough muddy, sticky, gooey? Encourage her to try out the words herself (if she's talking).
- For the final stage, you'll need to do most of the mixing. As you knead the dough hold your kid's hands to help her feel what you're doing.
- The dough is ready to be shaped when it's smooth, firm and silky.
- To shape the pasta, you have several options. You can use a rolling pin to make thin sheets, then roll it up like a straw and cut it crosswise into fettucini or tagliatelle. Or you can cut the flat sheets into small squares and pinch them in the middle for bowties (farfalle). Or get real schmancy and put an index finger atop a small ball of pasta on the counter, and in one motion, pull your finger toward yourself while pressing down. This creates a little cup that resembles an ear, or orchietta. You can also use cookie cutters to make shapes or letters.
- To cook the pasta, boil some salted water and get the rest of dinner ready. Fresh, homemade pasta cooks in no time at all, so when everything else is ready, pop the pasta into the water and wait. When it floats to the top, take a taste. It should be done, unless you've made some really gnarly thick shapes.
- Drain it, then butter it liberally to eat it alla bianca like Italian kids do. (Most kids don't like Parmesan until they're 3 or older.) Buon appetito!
- The older a kid gets, the more he'll need encouragement to work through the sticky stage of this activity, which can feel gross and look like your kid has grown monster hands. (Boys tend to like it, however, especially if you growl.) Keep reminding toddlers-and-up that this will be the best pasta they've ever had, and they usually cooperate.