So, I cannot take credit for the idea for this recipe…as much as I would love to do so. I was hanging out with my kids at home, in a post-vacation stress cloud, and decided to find something for us to watch on TV. (I think they call that Escapism) We ended up watching ‘The Chew’ and it happened to be the episode where Mario Batali cooks with Elmo. Both my kids LOVE Elmo. My son still does at almost 5, and my daughter, who is 1 1/2, is just now beginning her friendship with the furry monster. She calls him Mah-mo. During the segment, Mario showed Elmo how to make a Grilled Broccoli Rabe Pesto that he tossed with pasta that Elmo had cut into fun shapes with a cookie cutter. I thought this was incredible! What a genius idea!! The kids loved it and my eldest, who loves both pasta and pesto, said, ‘Mommy, we should make that this weekend!!’ So we did. And it was a lot of fun. We hadn’t made our own pasta in a long time…years in fact, but I quickly remembered how easy and satisfying it was to do so.
The kids had a blast and so did I, but most importantly to me, I could feel good about what they were eating. Making pasta at home is automatically fun for kids because they can help feed it through the machine, or just sit back with a rolling pin and watch mommy do it…
But when you add something like cookie cutters to the mix, it turns into fancy, fun craft time. And what tiny tot doesn’t love building things? If those things can also be eaten, then my son is on Cloud 9.
You just place a flat sheet of pasta dough in front of them (this can be done with par-cooked lasagna noodles if you don’t want to make your own…) and let their imagination run wild.
Place the cut-outs onto a lightly floured cookie sheet and wait for your salty water to boil. We had a combination of letters, numbers, animals, cars…
It was a very fun thing to do with the kids on a Saturday night. And both of them gobbled it up!
They were very excited about what they had made.
Now, maybe your kids don’t like pesto so they wouldn’t necessarily be immediately on board with this sauce like mine were, so make whatever sauce you want. I just loved the idea of making a pesto primarily out of a vegetable. But, maybe give this a try anyway, you never know! I have always said that if you involve your kids in the shopping and cooking, then they will want to eat the food. Then they would have invested something in the dish and will be excited about it…they now can claim ownership of it and will be proud to eat it. When I take my kids to the store, (which I do every week because I stay home with them), I include them in the produce buying (and spice buying when we’re at the bulk spice market). They pick out things that look good to them…maybe it’s a favorite color or shape, I have them smell it, I tell them what they have had with this ingredient before to get them to remember it, we talk about what we can make with it… I have done this with both my children since they were able to sit up in the cart. My oldest child now goes through the produce department like, ‘Mommy! Look at all those colored peppers!!’ ‘Mommy! Artichokes!’ ‘Mommy! Purple Potatoes!!’ It becomes so much fun for not only them but for the adult as well. If you are having trouble getting your kids to eat different things, whether it’s because you don’t have the time to cook or you yourself don’t like a lot of different fruits and vegetables, it isn’t too late…for either of you. Do it together! And if all else fails, watch Elmo do it. Everyone loves Elmo.
(Feel free to sub another green veg for this like spinach or other leafy greens, even peas…the flavor would change but the idea behind it would still be the same. What I like about using the broccoli is that it kind of takes the idea of Broccoli with Cheese Sauce and combines it with Pesto alla Genovese.)
(makes 4 cups, freezes well.)
-Blanche 1 1/2 lbs of fresh broccoli*, stems included, cut up into small pieces. Make sure your water is very salty. When the veggies are tender and bright green, shock them by placing them in an ice bath to cool and therefore retain their beautiful color.
-Once cool, drain and blot dry a bit. (note-I reserved the water to later cook my fresh pasta in)
-In a food processor, add your cooked broccoli along with 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, 1/3 cup almonds (raw if you can), 1 cup of grated Romano cheese, 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, the zest of 1 lemon, and a couple pinches of salt (adjust the salt level later to taste). Process this until pureed completely.
-With the mixer on, pour some extra virgin olive oil through the spout until you reach your desired consistency. I don’t add a lot of oil to mine, because I always add pasta water later, but you do whatever you like. And be sure to taste as you go.
-Serve by adding some to your hot pot once you’ve drained your pasta and reserved about 1 cup of the liquid, and then tossing your desired amount of pasta with the pesto in the pot. Add some pasta water if needed and check for seasoning.
-Store any leftover pesto in the freezer, in a zip bag, flat so you can later stack it up along side any other frozen liquids you may have in there like sauces, soups, etc.
(*you could always sub frozen broccoli if that’s all you had.)
(And, for my recipe for homemade pasta, click HERE. But please remember it was posted a very long time ago so be kind!!)