Past(a) Traditions

January 4, 2024
by Anna Catherine

For as long as I can remember, homemade pasta has been part of our family, particularly during Christmas. As kids, we all came running on Christmas Eve when mom announced it was time to make the pasta. We turned the kitchen upside down as we floured and kneaded dough balls and cranked the heirloom pasta machine. As the little pit-pat of our feet grew louder and we grew taller, pasta-making became a task primarily enjoyed by my mom and aunt, and the flour fights and lopsided ravioli became scarce (not non-existent, I should point out).   

After years of grabbing a grown kid here or there to join the pasta fun, this year, Mom decided to send a group text to invite us all to come back and rediscover the magic of pasta making. I didn’t realize I had yet to introduce the tradition to my three girls, so we were in. We loaded up the car on the Saturday before Christmas and headed to Good Batch Mama (once you cook in a commercial kitchen, it’s hard to go back, hehe). I was surprised when we pulled in to find that my siblings were equally excited to pick back up where we left off years before.   

Aunt Donna, the designated matriarch of pasta making (sorry, Mom, that’s a title you can’t claim!), worked the room, showing each of us the family secrets of pasta making. And while Mom offers nearly as much knowledge, she spent much time working beside us and soaking in all that moms feel when their kids are together, laughing and enjoying life.   

The ingredient list may be short, but the task should not be taken lightly! In kitchens clouded with puffs of flour and love, the hands of four generations of Italian cooks have spun thick slices of homemade dough through the beloved pasta maker that we still use today. 

We began by making ravioli, a satisfying task that yields adorable pasta that resembles big postage stamps. Once the ricotta was gone and the ravioli were put away, it was time to roll and cut noodles! While one team made batches of dough, another carefully rolled the pasta to the perfect thickness before cutting little rows of imperfectly made homemade noodles. It takes several passes through the pasta maker to get the dough flattened and then cut into noodles. We always work in teams of three, with one person feeding the pasta through, another spinning the handle, and the last catching all the noodles. Once the noodles are cut, it is time to hang them or lay them flat to dry.  

 The youngest in the group spent a great deal of time running around clapping flour-covered hands, just like the old days. She finally settled into cutting her own pasta shapes deemed “niblets.” (She offered $40 an hour to join her niblet business, should you be looking for employment. Warning: she’s a pretty intense boss for a nine-year-old.)   

Once the pasta was drying and the kitchen cleaned up, we all went our separate ways to finish our Christmas to-do lists, but when Christmas Eve rolled around, my great-grandmother’s pots were filled with boiling water, and we all found ourselves together again in the name of pasta.   

Like the good old days, we all boasted to the room that we had prepared this meal ourselves, and the tradition of homemade pasta on Christmas Eve lived on even stronger still.   

Check out some of our pasta making fun below!