I cook and bake with my two kids regularly, everything from weeknight dinners to the more advanced sugar cookies during the holidays and cakes for their birthdays, but I recently had a cooking-with-my-kids experience that was so revolutionary, so satisfying, and just plain fun that I have to tell you about it.
Five years into this parenthood thing, and way longer in the cooking and eating business, you'd think I would have thought to make pasta from scratch with my kids sooner. I already had a pasta machine languishing in the basement — a barter from a former neighbor long before we had kids — but we moved that pasta roller no less that three times before I ever used it.
Usually doing cooking projects with our kids requires more than a few considerations. There's the waiting for baking time, cooling time, and at the end I've probably snapped at them for throwing sprinkles at each other. By then the kitchen is a big mess. Surprisingly, making pasta from scratch with your kids is none of that. It literally requires three ingredients, take 10 minutes to prepare, and then you can actually have fun rolling and cutting the pasta dough with your kids and eating it for dinner or lunch, instead of having to cut them off from that third cookie.
So if cooking with your kids is something you want to do more often, consider making homemade pasta. Here's why.
1. Kids love pasta.
Kids are hard-wired to love carbs and sweets. I'm sure there are children who actually don't like pasta, but mine ask for it every single week without fail. So it delighted my daughter to learn that not only were we having pasta for dinner, but also that we were going to make it from scratch. She had the same excitement for making pasta that she does for baking cookies or cakes.
2. Fresh pasta makes it easy to try new veggies.
One of my techniques for introducing new foods to my sometimes-picky eater is partnering: I pair something new with something well-loved. A new vegetable is served alongside a grilled cheese sandwich or a new protein is folded into tacos, making the new feel familiar. Pasta is no different, and honestly, it's kind of the best for this trick. Fresh pasta pairs incredibly well with the "strange" new vegetables like asparagus, ramps, or even radishes.
A few more ideas: Pasta Is Fast and Cheap. Here's How to Make It Healthy.
3. Making pasta gets kids excited about eggs.
Spring, for me, means the promise of my favorite egg seller at the farmers market — eggs with the richest golden yolks really worth savoring. My children honestly couldn't care less about these eggs, save for the blue or green egg one tucked in the carton, but knowing that the eggs were bound for our pasta dough made them excited to go to the farmers market.
Pro tip: Let your kids crack the eggs for making pasta dough, but have them crack the eggs into a separate bowl, so you can fish out egg shells as needed before the eggs go into the pasta dough.
4. Fresh pasta is surprisingly easy to make.
Fresh pasta dough doesn't require any special ingredients — it is just flour, eggs, and salt. There's no need to run out for special flours! You can mix these ingredients together by hand or you can make cleanup even easier and pull out the food processor to knead the dough. Making the pasta dough will take about 10 minutes, from measuring to wrapping the dough to resting. I thought we'd be bored during our 30 minutes of waiting for the dough to rest, but cleaning our pasta roller and washing the food processor made 30 minutes blink by. Other ideas for passing 30 minutes with your favorite kids? Play Go Fish, tic-tac-toe, or a game of Hang Man.
Get the recipe: How To Make Fresh Pasta Dough in the Food Processor
5. You actually don't need any special equipment.
A pasta machine is really great if you plan to use it regularly, and you can often find hand-crank models at thrift stores or garage sales. But you can also roll your pasta with a rolling pin and cut the noodles with a sharp knife. You can also roll the dough out and make ravioli, or use a small cookie cutter to make any shape you or your kids desire.
Want to invest in a pasta machine? Here's how: Choosing a Pasta Maker