Homemade pasta is not only delicious, but it’s a great activity to do with kids. Click for recipe to make pasta in all the colors of the rainbow with your kiddos! Click to skip to the recipe
While brainstorming to come up with some activities to do with campers at my recent Camp Nana, one of my first ideas was to offer a class on baking and cake decorating.
But, here in the mountains of North Carolina, we sit in a bit of a rain forest.
A humid, wet rain forest.
This is not the best environment for cake decorating as the frosting has a hard time setting up. Get the pun?
My next thought was to do a cooking class where we eat what we cooked for dinner, doing double duty.
Then I thought about pizza which led me to think about pasta (My mind wanders in strange and mysterious ways…)!
This time, I thank goodness for strange thoughts as this class went down with pasta perfection.
My over-achiever self decided that we would make differently colored pastas instead of plain old noodles.
Why not? If you are going out on a limb, it might as well be a high one.
I amassed several pasta machines and decided to make a go of it.
I took beets and boiled them, spinach leaves and steamed them and carrots and roasted them. Then I pureed each veg into a puree.
Note to self, boiling root vegetables creates a smoother puree than roasting, although roasting gives a better flavor. The difference in the pasta is that a smoother puree will create a full-colored noodle, where a coarser puree will create little bits or dots in the noodle. How’s that for insider info?
The technique is really simple and a perfect activity for kids of all ages.
Since we were creating four different types of pasta, I used a smaller amount of ingredients per pasta maker. You can double or triple this basic recipe based on your needs. You dump the flour onto your work surface and use your CLEAN, WASHED hands to bring it together in a circle.
You then create a well and put the wet ingredients in the center. This is just like you pool gravy in mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.
Then use a fork to start swirling the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and eventually form everything into a smooth dough. Kids LOVE this!!!
Next, we cut the dough into pieces and run it through the machine. Through various degrees of thinness, we smooth the dough into thin sheets. The last setting on the machine cuts the dough sheets into the size noodles you prefer.
We let the noodles dry on a rack for a bit and then we boil them quickly in salted water and serve them with a topping of your choice.
I offered marinara sauce, alfredo sauce, and plain old delicious browned butter with just a hint of sage.
It was soooooo much FUN!!!
You don’t have to have a group of kids to make pasta. You can make pasta with just one of your favorite kids.
Or you can gather a few and take turns on the pasta machine. You can store dried pasta for several days in the fridge.
You can also purchase prepared sauces to go on top of your pasta. It’s all good.
Just as long as the smiles keep coming. Enjoy!
A Rainbow of Fresh Pasta
Homemade pasta is not only delicious, but it’s a great activity to do with kids. You can make pasta in all the colors of the rainbow, although some might take a bit of imagination! Gather a kid or two and have some fun!
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
½ cup spinach puree (substitute with beet, carrot, or your favorite)
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Serves: 4 hungry kids
Time: 60-minute cuisine
Use a fork to combine the eggs and yolk with the puree in a small bowl. Place the flour onto your work surface. Use your impeccably clean hands to scoop the flour into a circle. Make a well in the center of the flour. Pour the liquid ingredients into the well. Use a fork to combine the flour into the wet ingredients starting from the center of the well and working your way to the outside. Use your hands to gently knead the dough into a smooth circle.
Cut the dough into four pieces. Flatten with your hand and run through a pasta machine on the thickest setting. Do this twice and then move to the next setting until you get a thin sheet of pasta. Run this sheet through the machine on the final setting that cuts the pasta into the noodle size of your choice.
Dry the pasta for several minutes (or longer) on a rack or swirl the noodles onto a baking sheet lined with a bit of flour. Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water for just a few seconds, until the pasta is tender. Drain and top with your favorite sauce.
To make the puree, cook (boil or steam) the vegetable until it is incredibly soft. Drain the vegetable thoroughly in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Place the veggie into the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until it is pureed.
There are over fifty Little Italy neighborhoods in the U.S., and today, Columbus Day, is a big deal for all of them. The celebrations marking the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America over 500 years ago began with weekend parades, and are being sucked up – sometimes in the form of pasta drowning in Italian style gravy – all day today.
I am familiar with and love quite a few of the big ones: the Little Italy of Cleveland, Ohio (close to where I grew up), Manhattan, The Hill in St. Louis, and handful of Little Italy’s out west where the cannoli and baked lasagna make you happy to be alive…I could spend hours studying old family recipes from these bakeries and romantic restaurants that burn away the hours on a Roman candle…. Here are my greatest Italian hits in pictures.
While I was dunking my favorite Italian cookie into a mug of espresso, I called up a Sicilian chef I met on an historic food tour of Boynton Beach this summer. Here she is in front of some goodies.
Chef Anna is from a village near Sicily. She and her family have managed Palermo’s in Boynton for decades. The bakery draws in all kinds of customers. Once, Charlotte York (actress, Kristin Davis) walked out of Sex & the City’s nearest Little Italy and straight into Palermo’s — celebrity photo on their site.
You can come into this colorful bakery and see a lot of history hanging on the walls. I asked Chef Anna what her favorite Italian dessert is, and she answered with one sweet word and this picture of it:
Cassata. It is a tort cake filled with ricotta cheese that involves a detailed process to cook, then intricately decorate. In fact, the making of the Cassata is considered a specialty talent done by skilled pastry chefs.
“The essence of Italian sweets goes back our ancestors, our grandmothers in Sicily who made sweets using naturally produced ingredients like honey,” said Chef Anna, adding that she just did a Cassata cake making demo in the culinary department at Macy’s.
Hmm…well, that’s food for thought. I love to bake and teach, so perhaps I will do a pastry inspired lesson with my next cooking class at the Diamond Creek Golf Club in Boone, NC.
My family style recipes, most ideally suited for culinary exploration on a leisurely weekend at home, can be purchased at Dorrance or Amazon, and is also available, with audio by me, at iTunes. Aaaaand…in my upcoming cookbook, CANVAS & CUISINE, the best culinary stops under the Tuscan sun are featured in chapter after chapter.
Caio – Happy Columbus Day! I leave you with my recipe for pumpkin risotto!
Pumpkin Risotto with Wild Mushrooms
MAKES 6 SERVINGS
1 quart home made chicken broth, or low sodium chicken broth
Whisk the chicken broth and pumpkin puree in a pot over low heat. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Stir in the rice and cook to toast, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid disappears. Stir in a ladleful of warmed broth. When the liquid is absorbed, add another ladleful of broth. Continue until all of the broth has been absorbed. This should take about 20 minutes. The risotto will be wet, not sticky, chewy on the outside and tender on the inside. Stir in the butter, half and half and Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Delicate strands of spaghetti squash soak up the spiced, lemony sauce in this dish. Scoop the squash onto a serving platter and ladle the shrimp and sauce over top… or take the squash boats to the table and invite everyone to dig in!
40 Minute Cuisine
Preheat the oven to 375°
1 whole spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1-pound jumbo (21 to 25 count) frozen shrimp, peeled, deveined with tail on, thawed
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
½ cup butter, 4 tablespoons
½ cup olive oil
½ cup chili sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 2 large lemons, about ¼ cup
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Pierce the squash with the tines of a fork. Microwave the squash on high for 2 to 3 minutes to soften (this will make it easier to cut). Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Place onto a baking sheet, skin side down. Sprinkle the flesh of the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip the squash and bake flesh side down until soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
Toss the shrimp with Cajun seasoning and place in the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.
Melt the butter, olive oil, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and oregano in a pot over medium low heat. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper.
Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator and place into the butter sauce. Cook on medium heat until the shrimp are pink, about five minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and flip over, flesh side up. Use a fork to pull spaghetti strands from the squash. Divide the shrimp into the squash boat. Pour the sauce over the top. Garnish with additional fresh parsley.
Not for the faint of heart this rich, sweet, savory dish of velvety-ness accompanies pork cutlets and sautéed green beans for a stunning fall supper.
Serving Size: serves 4
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1 cup roasted butternut puree, made from 1 small butternut squash
8 ounces fettuccine pasta
1 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sherry
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup homemade chicken stock
2 large fresh sage leaves
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
To roast the butternut squash, preheat the oven to 375°. Slice the squash in half, from stem to bottom. Scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle a baking dish with olive oil and place the squash, cut side down into the dish. Roast until the flesh is fork tender, about 20 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to touch, remove the outer peel and place the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth.
Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes for dry pasta.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the sherry until smooth. Add the heavy cream and chicken stock. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sage leaves, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting for several minutes so that the sage infuses the sauce.
Remove the sage leaves from the sauce. Stir in the butternut squash puree and Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper. At this point if the sauce is thicker than you like you can add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water.
Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.