The Mother’s Day Gift You Give to Yourself All Year…
Teaching Your Kids to Cook Homemade Spelt Ravioli with Apple and Sweet Potato Cheese Filling
I started cooking with my tiny daughter out of necessity. She was great company while she chatted away in her high chair and then, as a preschooler, being able to mimic mommy’s mixing and measuring with plastic bowls became a great distraction so I could get dinner on the table. I actually brought her in on the action when she was three–pizzas and baking project were our favorites. But getting kids involved in the kitchen is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children (and yourself). I know you may not think of the colossal mess that happens when you first begin cooking with your kids as some gorgeous benevolence but, like trying to get them to sleep through the night, it gets easier.
One of the most delicious benefits of getting kids involved in the kitchen is because it’s a great strategy for dealing with the dreaded mealtime hiccup of pickiness. (Remember: Pickiness is a phase that will come and go like other developmental glitches.) Research has proven that if the kids have had a hand in making the meal, they’re more likely to eat it. However, it’s not always realistic to have the kids cracking eggs at your side, especially when you have 20 minutes before the hunger meltdown happens. It’s why I always got her involved in other ways like talking about where food comes from while at the farmer’s market, having her pick the apples at the grocery store or getting her ideas on what “green” we should smother in homemade cheese sauce that night for dinner.
Today my 7-year old daughter, Scarlett, is an enthusiastic sous chef. I’m not saying every kid is going to be the next Bobby Flay but being good at cooking gave my otherwise shy daughter confidence. I’m hoping her love of food will encourage her to be adventurous when it comes to trying new cuisines and will be only the beginning of a lifelong, healthy relationship with food. Plus, I’m not going to lie; it’s pretty awesome that I can practically hand over the dinner responsibility to her. It’s like the Mother’s Day gift I give to myself every day of the year.
Now that Scarlett is older we can tackle so many more projects in the kitchen. For instance, we love making our own pasta, especially since we’ve had the KitchenAid Stand Mixer Three-Piece Pasta Roller and Cutter Set. Because we’re all friends here, I’m going to admit that I used to be daunted by the notion of making my own pasta but the attachments make the process so easy that, here it comes, even a kid can do it. Plus nothing beats the excitement in Scarlett’s face when she spies those strands of spaghetti sliding from the machine that her little hands created. However, ravioli has become a favorite dish of ours to prepare since we love to dream up different filling combinations. This fun ravioli recipe has an apple and sweet potato cheese center that appeals to kids but is delicious enough to impress adults. It also has a lot jobs for little hands to keep them engaged and, besides, what kid doesn’t love pasta? Ok, I once met a kid who didn’t like pasta but we’ll pretend that never happened.
Homemade Spelt Ravioli with Apple and Sweet Potato Cheese Filling
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 1 lb.)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
1/4-cup olive oil
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
Pinch salt and pepper
1/2-cup ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves, minced (use a bit less if you need to use dried)
2 cups spelt flour
3 eggs, room temperature
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup fresh, shaved Parmesan
Fresh, chopped basil for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the potatoes, apple and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chili flakes. Pour on the olive oil and give everything a toss. Roast in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until it’s all very soft.
Meanwhile, for the pasta, in a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt. Beat the eggs with the oil.
Make a well in the flour and then stir in the egg mixture with a spoon. Finish the blending process using your fingers and hands and then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough comes together.
Cover in plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Remove the filling mix from the oven and allow to cool.
Place the cooled ingredients into a KitchenAid food processor along with the ricotta cheese and sage and turn it on Low until you have a nice, smooth mixture. Taste and check seasoning.
Spoon the filling into a piping bag or large plastic storage bag with a small section of one corner snipped off and the open end securely sealed. Set aside.
Now divide the dough into four equal portions and flatten each piece. Using your pasta roller attachment for your KitchenAid Mixer set on 1, take one section of dough and begin feeding it through the roller with the mixer speed set to 2 or 4. Continue flattening the dough by following Pasta Sheet Roller directions.
When you’ve completed the process for each section, lay your four flattened sheets out on a floured surface. If you have the KitchenAid Ravioli Maker follow the directions according to the attachment to make your bundles. However, if you don’t have that specific attachment, like myself, Scarlett loved being in charge of our rustic and kid-friendly method. After all, piping and crimping is pretty fun work.
We put a teaspoon or so of filling every few inches a long two of our pasta sheets. Then we topped each with a coordinating sheet and then cut out squares by slicing between each mound of filling. Scarlett used a fork to seal the ravioli edges. The bundles with be uneven but that’s part of the charm.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil, and then drop the fresh ravioli into the water. Stir the bundles immediately to prevent them from adhering together. Allow them to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the ravioli float to the surface.
Skim the ravioli from the surface, and drop them into a warmed pan of your favorite sauce. Sprinkle with the fresh, shaved Parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate. Serve ravioli with fresh basil.