01/08/2011 11:56 BST | Updated 01/10/2011 06:12 BST

School's Out For Summer: Kids in the Italian Kitchen

Ciao my friends,

So, the kids are on summer! As we all know, the school break can be either completely fantastic or a nightmare! I have some great ideas for things that will keep the kids entertained in the kitchen the Italian way. Cooking is a family business in Italy, and the sooner you get your children involved the better. It makes them less picky about what they eat and gives them a real appreciation for good food that will last them their whole lives.

Firstly, you can get the children making their own pasta salads. My boys absolutely love doing this because they can let their imaginations go crazy and you can enjoy the result!

To start off with, get the kids to choose a pasta shape. For salads, don't use tube or long shapes as they are hard to drain. Choose something like fusilli; its corkscrew twists capture flavours beautifully.

Cook the pasta until it's al dente then tip it into a colander and run some cold water over it. While it's still in the colander, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pasta and mix it in. You might want also want to add 2-4 tablespoons of mayonnaise and seasoning in at this point. Then pour the pasta into a large bowl and let your kids get creative with what they want to add.

Typical ingredients could be sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, tinned tuna and so on. There needs to be a responsible adult around, not only to cook the pasta but to monitor what the kids want to add to the salad. One time my boys wanted to add cod rolls and once, when I had made a delicious mixture with chopped mozzarella, basil and ham, Rocco tried to add chocolate spread. Nice! Once the pasta salad is ready, put it all in a sealable container and go out for a picnic!

Don't forget, kids also love making pasta from scratch. You can check out the recipe for homemade pasta in my book Gino's Pasta. All the information you need is there on page 19!

One of the great things about Italian food is that you use your hands for making so much of it. From rolling out gnocchi and wrapping prosciutto around figs to making the perfect meatballs, children can do all of these things simply and easily and will really feel like they've helped you. Just make sure they wash their hands really well before and after or it will all go wrong, especially if they are handing uncooked meat.

Very little children who are too young for cooking will enjoy making pictures with all the different types of dried pasta shape you can buy. One of the funniest things I have ever seen was a pasta model of Mrs. Gino with tagliatelle hair and gnocchi eyes. Brilliant.

Enjoy your summer everyone,

Un bacio,



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