An Interactive Cooking Party is Great for Children Ages 8 and Up
There are many themes for children’s birthday parties these days. Cooking parties are the perfect activity for young children and teens. It teaches them how to work together and also gets them comfortable and confident in the kitchen. An Italian pasta dinner is fun to prepare and it allows every child the opportunity to contribute to the meal. They will be proud of the results of their efforts when they sit down to eat the delicious meal they prepared.
How to prepare for your Italian Pasta Party
You will need a large table that all the children can work around. Make sure to cover the table with a plastic table cloth to make cleanup easier. Start the party by having the children decorate their own aprons with markers or paint pens. Blank aprons can be found at local craft shops or by searching on the internet for “aprons.”
There are three recipes you will need for this party. Marinara sauce, meatballs and homemade ricotta cheese raviolis. Find a favorite recipe by doing a search on the internet. Or you can contact Chef Lia at Home Cooking Consultant for suggested recipes. To make the ravioli preparation easier it is suggested that you use wonton wrappers or prepared fresh pasta that can be purchased from your local Italian specialty store. Even better, make it yourself with one of our recommended pasta makers.
Make the Marinara Sauce First
The first recipe you should prepare is the marinara sauce. The children can help with opening the tomato cans and for those who can handle a knife, mincing the onions and garlic. Once the ingredients are in the saucepan, the sauce can simmer on the stove while the meatballs and pasta are prepared. You can assign a few children to keep and eye on the sauce and stir it occasionally. Again, just be sure they are of the age where they can see into the pot without leaning too far over the stove. Adult supervision is key here!
Prepare the Meatballs and Bake
Gather your meatball ingredients and have one child mix them together. Separate the mixture into smaller portions so that each child can form some meatballs. Spread them on a baking sheet and bake them at 350 degrees for about 20 – 30 minutes (depending upon meatball size). Why bake the meatballs? Two reasons. One is for safety. Oil splatters are common when frying meatballs, so it’s a good idea not to fry them for this type of party. Two, the oil splatter are a hassle to clean up after the party. Baking the meatballs provides easy cleanup – especially if you line the baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Fill the Pasta Pot and Boil the Water
It’s never fun to wait for water to boil, so be sure to put your pasta pot up on the stove and get it to a boil right after you get the meatballs in the oven. That should give the water enough time to come up to a boil while you preapre the raviolis. TIP: If you have a large group, you might need two stock pots of boiling water. It’s not good to crowd the pan with too many ravioli as they tend to want to stick together. Be sure to use a lot of water and keep a slotted spoon handy for fishing the finished raviolis out the water.
Assemble the Ravioli
Several children can help prepare the filling while the other children get the wonton wrappers ready for stuffing. Be sure to put out small cups of water by each child for them to dip their fingers into to seal the edges of the ravioli. Small bathroom cups work great for this. You’ll also need several sheet pans sprinkled with fine cornmeal for the children to place the raviolis on after filling. The cornmeal assures the ravioli won’t stick to the pan.
Clean Up and Set the Table
It’s always good to get the children to help clean up their mess as well as set the table. Assign each child a task and the work will be done in no time! For even easier cleanup, you can use disposable plates and dinnerware.
Finishing the Meal
By now your marinara sauce has simmered gently and is rich and thick. Just keep it on warm until your ready to serve. Keep stirring occasionally so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. When the meatballs are done, place them in a warm serving dish and cover with hot sauce. Keep in 200 degree oven, covered, until ready to serve.
Boil the Raviolis
Once your water has come to a full boil, gently place the raviolis in the water and add a handful of salt. Stir gently to assure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. When they rise to the service, give them a minute or two more. The dough should become translucent and tender. When the raviolis are ready do not drain the raviolis in a strainer as they will clump together and have a good chance of tearing. Scoop them out of the water with your slotted spoon and place gently in your serving platter that has been coated on the bottom with some sauce. Spread more sauce over the top and serve immediately with your meatballs and extra sauce. And don’t forget the grated cheese!