It would be no understatement to say that we eat at least two pastas per week in this house. We were doing so long before we started baby led weaning with Archie but from day one with him we realised that pasta meals give us the perfect mix of ease of preparation, interesting textures, diverse strong flavours and low cost.
I try to vary things as much as possible with the pastas I make. When we started solids with Archie, we stuck to large shapes which he could hold, such as penne and fusili. Now he will eat anything we give him and I would say that no two pastas dishes are ever the same here. They are just a perfect opportunity to enjoy whatever vegetables, meat or fish we have to hand.
In the early days, Archie was very heavily dairy allergic and it used to break my heart to have to refuse him parmesan. The soya alternatives are okay but not a touch on the real stuff. He was given the all clear at 18 months old and has really been making up for lost time! As I said in the risotto post, we buy big slabs of aged parmesan at our local Costco wholesale store. Not only does this mean we get deliciously strong mature cheese, it is also way cheaper than even the basic stuff at a supermarket. My little food snob makes me laugh now when he turns his nose up at the dry processed parmesan if ever he gets served it somewhere!
He has been comfortable using his own spoons and forks since around 10 months old but a recent addition is copying the way we twirl our pasta! I have had many requests to see him eating what we make so, while trying to maintain his privacy, I have added a little clip at the end due to popular demand!
Tagliatelle with a pancetta, red pesto, mushroom and asparagus sauce
Preparation time 5 minutes, cooking time 15 minutes
These quantities fed two adults and Archie, with seconds and a portion for his lunch the next day!
One large onion, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
100g/4oz cubed pancetta (or any other smoked bacon)
A 300g/ 12oz bundle of asparagus, cut into 2cm long spears.
175g/ 6 oz sliced chestnut mushrooms
3 tbsp of good quality green pesto (yes, green pesto! It goes red when you add the tomato purée)
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add a large pinch of salt (we did this even when Archie was only 6 months old)
- Add the tagliatelle, bring back to the boil and leave to cook as per the instructions on the packet. When Archie was very little, we used to cook the pasta for maybe 4 minutes longer than it said in the instructions, just to make it a little softer.
- Heat up a dry frying pan and fry the pancetta cubes until they start to lose their fattiness and go a little brown. Remove them from the pan and put them to one side.
- Add a little olive oil (you will not need much as the pancetta will have left its fat in the pan) and gently soften and cook the onion and garlic until they go golden.
- Add the mushrooms and asparagus and continue to stir and cook until the asparagus is soft. This will take between 4 – 5 minutes. You can of course cook them for longer if you are keen for them to be extremely soft.
- Mix in the pesto and then 2 or 3 good squirts of tomato purée. The sauce will turn a nice, rich rusty colour.
- Ladle some of the pasta’s cooking liquid into the sauce to loosen it up. Cover the sauce to simmer gently for 30 seconds.
- Meanwhile, drain the pasta and run some cold water through it to avoid it sticking.
- Toss the pasta into the hot sauce, season it and serve immediately with loads of parmesan. We also find adding some cayenne pepper at the end works really well to although Archie is less of a fan!