In light of developments around the covid-19 situation, we at Pasta Evangelists understand a changing dynamic to home life - with some of us having a little more spare time on our hands, which can often result in increasingly restless little ones. Finding novel ways to pass the time can prove a daunting task to busy parents and carers, so we present to you a (tasty) solution. From kneading your mixture to deftly shaping your impasto (dough), there’s no better kitchen therapy than pasta making, and we strongly believe this is a perfect means of keeping small hands busy during this stressful time. Making pasta from scratch is a fun and creative way to both pass the hours, and get children increasingly involved in the kitchen. Here you’ll find a pick of some of our favourite pasta shapes, perfect for kids and adults alike to both make and enjoy!
Making your pasta dough
Whether your recipe calls for a traditional egg-and-flour dough, or water-based pasta bianca (white dough), we have you covered with our step by step fresh pasta guides, available here:
Chef’s tip: we recommend using the traditional ‘00’ flour when making fresh pasta, however, regular all-purpose flour will work too.
Before attempting your plethora of pasta shapes, be sure to let your dough rest for at least an hour at room temperature, covered with a cloth or plastic wrap. You can also rest the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, though this will result in a slightly less malleable mixture.
This shape calls upon the classic egg pasta dough. These adorable miniature bow ties are a joy both to form and eat, especially amongst little chefs! This shape was also a personal favourite of a young chef Roberta, who loved to eat her farfalle with olive oil and parmesan.
- To make your farfalle, first take your rested pasta dough, and place on a well-floured surface.
- Shape your dough into a rough circle, and begin to flatten with a rolling pin (a roll of cling film or bottle of wine work well here, should you not have a rolling pin to hand). If your little ones are rolling out the dough, feel free to give them a smaller section of dough to work with.
- Roll the dough as you would with a pastry crust, starting in the centre and rolling away from you to the outer edge. Turn the dough a quarter-turn, and repeat, working your way around, until the sheet of dough is 1/8 inch thin or less. Scatter a small amount of flour on the dough whenever it starts to stick to the surface or the rolling pin. You now have your sheet of pasta dough!
- Take a butter knife, and cut your dough into even squares, around 1 ½ to 2 inches wide.
- Now comes the fun part - shaping your bows! We follow a three-step process to do so. First, take your square of dough, and pinch from the centre to one edge of the pasta, forming one pleat. Repeat this step from the centre to the opposite edge - you should see the bow-tie shape begin to form here. Lastly, pinch the dough tightly in the centre of the bow, to secure its shape.
- Repeat for your remaining pasta squares, and marvel at your handiwork!
- To enjoy your farfalle immediately, boil your pasta in salted water for around 3-4 minutes, or until al dente, drain and toss in your favourite sauce, and enjoy!
Not to be mistaken for the delicious potato dumplings, gnocchetti earn their name for their similarity in appearance to gnocchi. Gnocchetti are in fact formed of pasta bianca dough, a simple and accessible mixture of flour and water. To be extra traditional, aim to use semolina flour here, as this is typical in gnocchetti’s native Sardinia. Their grooved shape and hollow centre make gnocchetti the perfect vehicle for flavoursome pomodoro (tomato) sauces, a perfect lunch option for hungry little ones.
- For your gnocchetti, first take your rested dough, and place on a floured work surface. Take about a quarter of the dough and roll into a long, rope shape.
- Using your hands, break the rope into a series of smaller pieces, aiming for segments around 1cm in length.
- The next step is admittedly a little tricky at first, but with practise becomes an easy and soothing process! Take a fork (a gnocchi board would be ideal here, though we understand few will have this kit available at home), and place it on your work surface, so the prongs are facing downwards, and you have a small slope on which to roll your pasta. Place a piece of pasta at the top of the slope, and using your fingers, roll gently towards you, in one deft motion. This should leave you with a piece of pasta that resembles a shell; hollow in the centre, with ridges on the outer edge.
- Repeat with the rest of your pasta pieces, and leave to firm up a little before cooking, preferably on a kitchen towel.
- To prepare your gnocchetti, simply boil your pasta in salted water until al dente, around 2-3 minutes. Serve with a tasty tomato sauce, or chunkier meat ragù - buon appetito!
Finding gnocchetti a little hard to master? Cavatelli is another classic pasta bianca shape that follows near enough the same process, though does not possess the same ridges characteristic of the gnocchetti shape. This one is perhaps better suited to little hands, though produces similarly delicious results! We like to serve our cavatelli with a tasty pesto, though we’ll leave sauces up to you…
- To make cavatelli, follow the same process as gnocchetti, to form small pieces of dough.
- Take your pasta pieces, and on a flat, floured work surface, drag the pasta towards you in a single movement, using two fingers to achieve a longer, hollow-centred shape.
- Homemade cavatelli is really as simple as that. Now all you need to do is boil your pasta in salted water for about 2-3 minutes until al dente and enrobe in your favourite sauce!
Consider Pici are a fun, handmade spaghetti of sorts… this long pasta shape is rolled by hand, achieving a strand that is fatter than spaghetti, and thus pleasantly chewy in texture. Using the same pasta bianca dough as before, young pastai will love making their own tangly strands of delicious pasta, the perfect accompaniment to a tasty cheese sauce like cacio e pepe.
- For pici, place your rested dough on a clean surface, and form into a rough rectangle - the key here is to result in a fairly evenly shaped block of pasta, in which to take your strands.
- Using a knife, cut a long strand of pasta from your dough. With both hands, begin to roll your dough into a long worm-like shape. Don’t worry if your strands are a little ‘rustic’ in appearance, they’ll still be delicious! Feel free to cut your pici into smaller pieces, making it easier to manage for smaller hands.
- Place your finished pici strand on a floured tray, to ensure nothing sticks.
- Repeat this process until you’ve used up your dough. Should you find your dough becomes a little dry, feel free to rub some olive oil over its surface, or alternatively cover with a slightly damp towel.
- To cook, simply boil your pici for around 4-5 minutes. Drain your pasta and coat in your sauce of choice, before marvelling at the delightful chewiness of these fun pasta tangles!
Fledgeling pastai, take note...
Be sure to tune in to our Pause for Pasta cook-alongs, every week from Wednesday to Friday at 12pm, live on our instagram channel, featuring our amazing head pastaio (pasta maker), chef Roberta. Each session will zone in on a different pasta technique by hand only - PLUS classes are no longer than 20 minutes so you can join in on your lunch break! Check our #stories each morning to find out what's on the agenda for class that day. Each class will be up for 24h if you can't join us live.
Be sure to encourage your little ones to get involved too - we’re running a weekly competition as part of our Pause for Pasta campaign, where we select a lucky budding pastaio to receive their very own Pasta Evangelists Pasta Making Kit - simply post an image of your little chef with their pasta creations for a chance of winning!
Looking to brighten a friend or family member’s day? Why not send a pasta care package? We’ve partnered with AgeUK to create our feasting box with a conscience, consisting of three delicious and nutritious pasta dishes, delivered to yours or a loved one’s door, all of which are ready in under 10 minutes. We’ll donate £5 from every box to AgeUK*, supporting the amazing work they're doing at this challenging time. #PastaCare
**£5 from every box sold will be donated to Age UK (Registered charity number 1128267) to provide support for older people in need. Funds will be used wherever the need is greatest.