My eight-year old son had been asking for a long time to learn how to make pasta from scratch. When I saw Paige Russel's Instructable class on pasta-making, I asked him if he wanted to do it together. He dragged me out to buy a pasta maker that very afternoon. He bought it himself, with every last penny he owned.
We've had a great time making fresh pasta together. The Pasta Challenge appeared shortly after we finished the class. My son saw it, and with great enthusiasm, declared "Let's do it!"
I spent a while thinking about what we could make. I wanted to come up with a kid-friendly, fun pasta project, since the pasta making has not been a solo endeavor in our house. Eventually, I came up with cookie cutter ravioli. What kid doesn't like punching shapes out with cookies cutters?
I'll go over the basic recipe and methods we used for making and rolling out the actual pasta, but I'm going to assume some familiarity with pasta-making. If you've never done it before, I highly recommend Paige's Pasta Making Class for the finer details and a great beginner's introduction.
These ravioli could be made with all heart-shaped cutters for an elegant Valentine's dinner or some such occasion, but I'm also going to include tips in here specifically for making pasta with kids. Let's do it!
350 g (about 2 1/2 cups) flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
Knead all of these ingredients together well. It will take some arm muscle. If the dough is at all sticky, sprinkle on a bit more flour and keep kneading. Sticky dough is really difficult to handle! When you have a smooth ball of dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least thirty minutes. Alternatively, you can also wrap it and refrigerate it for tomorrow. If you choose to do that, set it on the counter to warm up for at least half an hour before trying to roll it out.
*Give yourself twice as much time as you think you need to make the dough. Cooking is no fun when people are rushed, and kids often need more time than adults would to complete the same task. If you get done in record time, it's fine to let the dough rest longer.
*Consider the ages of the kids you're cooking with. I knew our resident three-year-old would want to get in on the cookie cutters, and would undoubtedly ruin some of the dough. So we made a double batch, with the hopes that half of it would become ravioli. That way, there's no stress if he tears the dough or stamps shapes over each other.
*My son doesn't have the hand strength to knead by hand and often get frustrated trying. We have a bread machine (picked up at a thrift store for $7; it seems there are always bread machines in thrift stores). So he measures the ingredients, pours them in, and sets the bread machine on its "dough" setting. This kneads for him. He keeps a watch on the dough, testing it and adding more flour as needed to make a smooth ball. This allows him to do more of the pasta-making on his own. But barring a bread machine, be ready to jump in and take over when kids are frustrated/tired -- or if you have multiple kids who want to knead, help them take turns.