“Where do noodles come from?” asked my 3-year-old son, Myles. I’d told him before, but he enjoys the comfort of repetition. Sometimes I answer, “the pantry” or “the grocery.” This placates him and he repeats the words after me, like he’s taking an oath.
Sometimes, I tell him noodles are made of wheat or rice (we eat a lot of rice noodles in our house) and explain that these are grains that grow in a field. This deeper look down the food chain is a little more than his toddler brain is ready to handle. This week, I was able to give him the best answer – a sensory experience that he will remember.
Myles made noodles - specifically, ravioli - with his own two hands using Ricky’s Ravioli Kit. Through the project, Myles learned that pumpkins aren’t just decorative - we cut one open and used it for our pumpkin filling. He saw that pasta is made of flour and water and that you have to roll it really thin. As we drew long, straight lines together with the dough crimper, he saw firsthand how decorative edges are made. We measured and mixed and sang songs along the way: “roll, roll, roll the dough”. At the end, Myles could easily answer the question, Where do noodles come from? “I made them!”
Pumpkin Ravioli Filling
Yield | Filling for 48 ravioli |
- ¾ cup fresh (cooked and mashed) or canned pumpkin
- ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp ricotta
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
| Preparation | Mix all ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl until fully combined. To prepare the ravioli, follow the dough recipe and instructions that come with Ricky’s Ravioli Kit.
Brown Butter Sauce
Yield | Sauce for 48 ravioli |
- ¾ cup unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ cup roughly chopped pecans
- 1½ tsp dried rosemary
- grated Parmesan, to taste
- cracked pepper, to taste
| Preparation | Melt butter over medium-heat in a small skillet or heavy-bottomed pot. Continue to heat butter, stirring periodically, until it turns brown (10 to 15 minutes). The butter will first boil with big bubbles (it's not done yet). Then, the bubbles will get smaller and the whole thing will look browner. Lower heat to low and add garlic, pecans and rosemary. Stir frequently until garlic turns golden brown. Gently toss with warm ravioli. Serve immediately and top with Parmesan and cracked pepper.
7 TAKEAWAY TIPS
Making ravioli from scratch is a daunting project, even without a toddler in tow. Here are my tips for cooking with toddlers that helped to get me through the challenge.
1. DON'T DO IT ALL AT ONCE
This project has two distinct parts, preparing the filling and making the pasta. I knew Myles wouldn’t have the patience for all of it, so we made it a two-day project.
2. EAT ALONG THE WAY
Delayed gratification is tough enough for adults, but it’s nearly impossible for toddlers. Be sure to have food that they can nosh on throughout the project. If there are any ingredients that they can taste or at least smell, let them! As we worked, Myles enjoyed the pumpkin, the ricotta cheese, and even a taste of the pasta dough.
3. GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DO
It will slow you down and it will mean that your end result isn’t as perfect, but seeing their pride is worth the extra time and effort. When they can’t help (like cutting with sharp knives and working on the hot stove), give them something to mix while you’re busy. Sometimes you have to get creative with this. I’ve been known to put flour and sugar in a bowl for Myles to mix even though I know that I won’t be using it in my recipe.
4. GET MESSY
You can’t cook with a toddler and be scared of a mess. Mess happens, so roll with it and clean later.
5. LET THEM PLAN THE MENU
Try making one of your child’s favorite boxed foods from scratch. If it’s a food they love, they are guaranteed to be more interested in its preparation.
6. START AT THE SOURCE
Growing your own food or heading to a farm makes cooking more exciting. Myles and I were able to go pumpkin picking this fall so he was particularly motivated to use a pumpkin in our cooking.
7. KNOW WHEN TO STOP
Even with the best planning, your child might not be interested in cooking right when you want to do your project. Don’t force it. It’s supposed to be fun!
Check out more of Stefani Pollack's work on her Cupcake Project blog.
With a stronger-than-ever national focus on what kids are eating, FEAST is looking at how local culinary instructors, educators, chefs and food-savvy parents are getting children excited about cooking and making smart food choices. Every week, we bring you weekly tips, recipes, dining-out ideas, hands-on activities and more.