There are over 150 different variations of Pastas….textures, shapes, sizes, colors…..from black squid ink pasta to spinach pasta, to stuffed ravioli to lasagne, Pasta-Making has always been my “fan favorite” activity when it comes to gathering together with family and friends in the kitchen. Of course, the final dish and actual pasta eating makes it all worth while, but more importantly, the preparation and time it takes to create a pasta dish is in my opinion, what it is all about.
Pasta- Making is a labor of love – it takes a great deal of effort, a keen eye to detail, a delicate hand for this art, and lots of patience. If you are looking for a work-out, just wait until the step when you begin to knead the dough. Anyone who has attempted kneading dough with the palms of their hands from scratch may feel the after effects the following day of their triceps aching, it is a true workout indeed to create “the perfect, textured, dough.”
This pasta “Art” is for all ages. I currently led a Bella Piccolina Pasta-Making workshop series this past January titled “Culture through Food.” I encourage the involvement between families and children through the experiences of learning Italian language and culture through the art of Pasta-Making. Parents/Guardians and Grandparents were equally as interested in the workshops as the children were (Ages 6-9) participating in Italian Pasta-themed songs, basic Italian language and food phrases along with activities of learning how to make fresh pasta dough from scratch using basic ingredients that families can find right in their own kitchen. From Tagliatelle and Spaghettini to Ravioli to Farfalle ….we certainly made pastas that encouraged learning though the food we create with our own hands, which Today sometimes feels like a lost art. Of course, it takes time to make pasta from scratch but I began to think if we can learn and use this an activity in the households (like parents/guardians encourage piano lessons, ballet, karate and sports), then it could become part of a tapestry of learning through food.
During the Bella Piccolina workshop, families were introduced to their five senses in relation to food, and how their senses play such a vital role while in the kitchen. Besides learning the basics of food safety when in the kitchen always together with an parent/guardian, families learned key takeaways to help create interest and awareness when creating a meal in the kitchen together while sharing conversations through food.
I grew up making fresh pasta since I was five year old. I never realized it was something unique. I thought everyone knew how to make fresh pasta and what “the combo” called for- Eggs, Flour and Water- these basic three ingredients are used to make fresh dough from scratch. Instead I had an awakening when I entered high school and learned classmates were referring to combos as “1-10 on a dashboard of a fast food drive thru.” I have been very fortunate to have been brought up in an Italian home where pasta-making was part of my culture and heritage. As I got older, I realized it is something that not everyone knows how to do, nor do they know fresh dough can be made from scratch from basic ingredients. This did not make me want to just hold onto this tradition but instead, share with this world. I want to share the gift I was given as a child from my Italian family, to others, this way more families will cook together in the kitchen, engage in meaningful conversations and share “food for thought.” I believe if we change the habits of not eating together and go right to where it all begins in the preparation of the home, we will have more conversations in the home and more healthy meals. We all have our plates full (no pun intended) but in today’s every so changing and fast-paced world, it is time we slow down for an afternoon or weekend and participate in an activity with family/friends to grow through new experiences while using our five senses.
Top FIVE Reasons Pasta-Making Makes a Food-Filled Family Activity:
1.) Unique Perspective:
It encourages something NEW. A new perspective for families/friend. Children like to show their parents things they do not already know. It makes them feel like they can participate in something that allows them to learn at the same time that a family member is learning that same thing. Working together in an activity where basic ingredients are transformed into a magical masterpiece, is truly inspirational in learning what cooking is all about. It does not matter if one chooses t make fresh dough through a food processor or entirely by hand, instead watching basic ingredients transform into a finished master piece educates people on what an art food is and what goes into preparing a meal. One of my most memorable takeaways from my workshops is when I see a child’s face light up as they see the dough transform through pasta maker. It appears to be magic. How can a big piece of dough turn into strings of spaghetti? This encourages a new way of thinking and learning about the food one eats.
Through pasta-making there are key details that one must pay attention to in order to create the paper thin textured dough prior to running it through the pasta maker. It takes listening and practice to develop the right dough texture. Problem-solving skills take place when a hole may appear in the dough from over worked and stretching it. Figuring out ways to make the dough even and all come together require team work, communication and like anything, practice.
3.) Culture and Diversity:
Educating and teaching all ages “Culture Through Food” allows individuals to expand their knowledge while thinking out of the box. We live in a world of diverse cultures and many international traditions and cultures can be taught through food, in a way that is interactive, engaging and encouraging for not just children but all ages to learn from. Learning what Parsnip ( a root vegetable) is is different from seeing what a parsnip looks like in its shape and color. How to recognize the difference between all things leafy and green: Lettuce/Broccoli/and Broccoli Rabe “Rapini”? Being able to see these ingredients first hand and learn what cultures use these ingredients in their signature dishes all over the world, helps to develop a wider appreciation for cultures, deeper meaning and knowledge of the world as a global space and interest in foods and ingredients.
I am always thinking of creative ways to tie together math skills into the Pasta-Making activities. For example, a memorable way to understand measurements and serving sizes are as follows:
1 egg + 1 cup of flour will yield approx 2 servings
2 eggs + 2 cups of flour will yield 4 servings
3 eggs + 3 cups of flour will yield …. (Do you see a pattern here?)
This is a pretty accurate way to remember serving sizes in theory and involves a great deal of math addition exercises!
5.) Sparks Creativity:
Children love to play with their food, we all know this. Pasta-making is like science! But what if there is a way that they can play with their food and actually learn from it and remember what they learn
Learn about the ingredients, Learn what their five senses are, learn how to problem solve, work as a team, learn about diverse international cultures, languages and cuisine as well as basic math skills? Children and adults like to be engaged and food engages us all to think about nutrition, the food we put into our bodies and the lifestyle we choose to live.
Debating where to take your child/children one weekend afternoon for “fun”, the answer could be right in your kitchen inside your HOME 🙂
Buon Appetito! Enjoy your meal!
Peace, Love, Gelato,