Picky eater. If you have kids of your own, or know someone who does, this term has probably come up in conversation at least once. And while it’s true that children’s eating habits can sometimes be exasperating, many adults I know are just as bad, if not worse. I’m not talking about people with allergies, or those who exclude from their diets certain classes of food (meat, dairy, shellfish) by choice, or for religious or health reasons. I’m talking about people who adamantly refuse to try new things, for no good reason at all.
Granted, lots of children – my own included – can be stubborn or inconsistent when it comes to eating, too. I try to combat this by adopting a strategy my own mom used: we ask our kids to try everything on their plate at least once. And by “try,” I mean they have to eat at least one full bite. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat the rest. But they at least try it, and often they actually like it. Also, because I don’t force things on them, they are more willing to try new and different foods.
For me, the term “picky” connotes a personality trait. I find that although this applies to my kids once in a while, for the most part they either truly like something or they don’t. In my experience, kids tend to have picky personalities less often than they have sensitive palates. Our pediatrician has confirmed that like the rest of their little bodies, the taste buds of young children are developing, and thus more delicate. Foods that taste fine to us may taste unusually strong or unappetizing to some kids.
This fact has been a great learning experience for me as a mother. For example, there was a time not too long ago when we would sometimes buy canned biscuits. I know. I know! But they seemed convenient and they tasted okay… except to my girls, who simply would not eat them. “They not taste good, mommy.” How can anyone not like biscuits? Well, it wasn’t that they didn’t like biscuits, it was that they didn’t like canned biscuits. Now that I make my own from scratch, my girls can’t get enough – they love them. And for good reason. Homemade just tastes better. Duh!
The same holds true for lots of other foods, too. A while back, my son invited a friend to spend the night. I had decided to try my hand at homemade pasta that day. As I was putting dinner together, my son announced skeptically, “Bruno doesn’t like noodles.” How can anyone not like noodles? Even regular dried pasta is delicious. But my son insisted, “I’m telling you, mommy. He doesn’t like noodles!” Just then, Bruno walked into the kitchen, where I was in the middle of rolling and cutting the pasta and filling the raviolis. “Ooooh,” Bruno said, “I think I like those kinds of noodles!” Later that night at dinner, he ate two bowls full.
Yeah, kids can be picky eaters. Maybe they’re asserting their independence. Maybe they’re trying to figure out what it is they really like or don’t. Or maybe their vulnerable little palates are simply more pure and perceptive than those of adults, whose tastes have been influenced by a lifetime of eating, and the habits of their own parents and friends. So while I won’t claim to make all my meals from scratch, seeing my kids and their friends happily eating something new is reason enough to make homemade pasta from scratch (at least, once in a while).
Adapted from The Art of Italian Cooking, compiled by Myra Street
If you have either a pasta machine or an attachment for your stand mixer, making homemade pasta couldn’t be easier. I have neither, and although it takes a bit longer to roll and cut the pasta by hand, it’s still a very simple process. Plus, the kneading and rolling are a great way to work up an appetite.
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Sift the flour into a heap on a large work surface (or in a large bowl). Make a well in the center of the flour.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, oil and salt with a fork. Pour the mixture into the center of the well. Mix with a fork until all the flour has been mixed into the liquid. Scrape the dough together, sprinkle the work surface and the dough with a little flour, and knead the dough until smooth and shiny (5-10 minutes). Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes (refrigerate if you need to let it rest longer, no more than a few hours).
Divide the dough into 2-4 pieces. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface until very thin, dusting with flour frequently to keep the dough from sticking. Roll the dough thinner than you want your noodles to be, since they will plump up a bit when cooked.
Cut the rolled sheets into noodles of the desired width, using a pizza cutter or large, sharp knife.*
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook for 3-6 minutes, depending on thickness. (The best way to test the pasta for doneness is to taste.) Drain and serve immediately with your favorite sauce.
*Alternatively, make ravioli by placing spoonfuls of desired filling 2-3 inches apart, brushing egg wash or corn starch slurry around the filling, folding pasta sheet over the top, then using a cookie cutter or glass to cut the ravioli. I filled the “giant” ravioli – 5 inches across! – in these photos with a mixture of tofu, egg, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parmesan-flavored rice topping.