Saturday, March 15, 2008


Italy’s most famous contributions to world culture include art, music, and, of course, FOOD! This winter, nourish your kids’ minds with facts about Italia, keep their hands busy with cooking and then warm their bellies with the hearty Italian soup Pasta e Fagioli.

Geography: Observe the unique boot shape of Italy, which is situated between the Mediterranean, Ionian and Adriatic Seas.

Social Studies & History: Introduce a few words of Italian such as fagioli [fa-jho-lee], meaning “bean,” amore, [a-more-ay] expressing “love,” and ciao [chau], stating “goodbye.”

Music & Art: Italy is known for its culture, including art, architecture, literature and opera. Famous historical figures such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Vivaldi and Puccini called Italy home. Grab paper and paints and imitate some of the great artists’ masterpieces.

Math: Teach kids about weights and measures as you divvy up raw, cut pasta. Have them play with the different amounts of pasta using measuring cups. For an advanced challenge, weigh each measuring cup and convert the result to the metric system.

Science: Discuss the science of how pasta cooks. Did you know that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit?

Food: Take a tasting tour. Cuisines vary greatly among Italy’s 20 regions—with each area boasting a product such as wine, cheese, cured meat or sauce. Some examples of regional specialties include pizza from Naples, pesto from Liguria and tortellini from Bologna.

Italians take pride in featuring fresh, seasonal produce as part of their meals. Olives, grapes, tomatoes, eggplant, artichokes, mushrooms and lemons are just some of the produce grown around Italy.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Pasta e Fagioli is an Italian soup made of pasta and beans. Since beans and pasta were historically inexpensive and plentiful, this soup was originally a peasant dish. Like most Italian cuisine, this dish may be prepared differently depending on the region.

1/2 lb. small cut pasta (such as small shells or ditalini)
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 celery stalks
2 carrots, peeled
4 small tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 15-oz. can white beans
6 to 8 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Additional Parmesan cheese, to taste

PARENT: Cook 1/2 lb. of pasta and set aside.
CHILD & PARENT: Dice onions, garlic, celery, carrots and fresh tomatoes and set aside. PARENT: Put olive oil into large pot and heat over medium temperature. Once oil is heated, add onions and cook until transparent.
CHILD & PARENT: Add garlic, celery and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
CHILD & PARENT: Add fresh tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, white beans and 6 cups chicken stock to pot. Cook over high heat for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and soup has come to a boil.
CHILD: Use large measuring cup to carefully add the cooked pasta and 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese and stir.
PARENT: Adjust salt and pepper. Add more chicken stock to adjust to desired thickness. Ladle soup into bowls.
CHILD: Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 6

Per serving: calories 545, fat 8g, protein 38g, carbohydrate 90g, dietary fiber 16g

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