Just Call Me Mama Cuoco

"No, Peanut Gallery, I didn't mean 'coocoo'.  It's 'cuoco'".

'Cuoco' is 'chef' in Italian.  A female chef is actually 'cuoca', but I thought that might read as 'caca' in the title, which is even a little bit worse than 'coocoo'.  

Last August, my Italian brother-in-law introduced kiddo to the magic of homemade pasta. Surefire way to endear yourself to a 7-yr-old niece:  let her mix flour, eggs, and olive oil directly on the countertop (no bowls required).  Then let her pass it through a 'squisher machine' that flattens the dough and slices it into perfect strips.  Plunge those strips into a pot of boiling water and top them with nothing but mounds of butter and salt.  Then place that steaming bowl of her own creation in front of her and let her feast.  

His pasta magic way outshone my Saturday-morning crepe-making skills.  Kiddo went on about it for months.  

Smilin' Vic, softy that he is, came home in late October with a pasta maker.  We might not be able to match Uncle L's culinary expertise, but we could at least have fun trying.

I was thrilled.  What a fabulous kitchen gadget.  This one would not sit on a shelf unused for months.  No sir, we were going to make pasta every week.  I took this glorious culinary apparatus out of its box and immediately went out and bought Number 0 flour.  Pasta all'arrabbiata was about to take on a whole new meaning in our house.


So ..... four months later, to the day, we finally got around to baptizing this lovely piece of kitchen art.  This afternoon I finally gathered up my motivation and my kiddo and said "Get ready to get messy, we're making pasta!"  

We emptied the flour onto a clean surface.  We dug a well.  We started breaking the eggs into the well.

(Just in case you didn't know ... moms don't come with as much patience as uncles.)  

When the egg started running over the sides of the well is when I adopted 'Mom Mode'.  "Smilin' Vic, we need help.  There's a mess going on here.  Kiddo, step back, I've got to stop the egg escape."  There was an egg white on the loose.  I admit I panicked.  I take my kitchen seriously.

Thankfully we corralled the runaway egg and I was able to revert fairly quickly to 'Fun Mode'.  The dough kneaded, we let it set for 15 minutes, then proceeded to roll, fold, roll again, fold again, etc. until we had a perfectly thin rectangular sheet of pasta dough.  We repeated this process several times until we had a countertop full of pasta sheets.  We let them dry for fifteen minutes, then passed them through the pasta shaper.

The result?

Perfectly shaped linguini An amazing boost of confidence to and sense of accomplishment for a little seven-year-old girl.

She was so thrilled to serve us supper.  Linguini with basil and artichoke pesto sauce.  A culinary feast that would feature well on a Michelin star menu.

I will admit to slightly overcooking

drowning the pasta. But lesson learned. In the end, this afternoon wasn't really about pasta at all; it had a lot more to do with living and sharing and laughing and bonding. And on that front, everything turned out 'magnifico'!

It's amazing what a couple of hours in the kitchen with your child can do.  Boost confidence, encourage creativity, increase focus, engage meaningful conversation, build patience, and feed the soul.

Thanks to Uncle L for motivating us all to spend a little more time doing something that actually means something.

Oh, and by the way, despite my al dente shortcomings, supper was amazing.  Kudos to Kiddo Cuoco.  

'Ciao' from Mama Cuoco.