Italy: Il Bel Paese (The Beautiful Country)

By Katrina Geertsema

For the past few weeks, our Grade 3/4 class has been learning about Italy. We started off learning about the Ancient Romans (the first Italians), and then progressed to learning about modern-day Italy through its economy, geography, and major cities. But I’d have to say that the lesson the students were most excited to learn about was about Italian food (and who can blame them right?).

Students were challenged to try Italian foods: sun-dried tomatoes, olives and pizelles (thin cookies baked in a cookie press). Then came a new challenge: to make fresh, homemade, Italian pasta with their bare hands! It was amazing to see was the excitement from the students throughout the process, leading to the obvious culmination of the process – getting to taste the food!

Students first learned how to make traditional Italian dough, from Northern Italy. They had to mix dry ingredients together, make a circular trench in the middle, add eggs and olive oil, and mix everything together by hand. Then students spent time kneading the dough until it was the right consistency, rolled their dough into a ball, and finally set it aside in a baggie to rest until we would resume our activity the next day.

The next step in the process involved flattening the dough with a machine (multiple times until it was almost paper thin) and then feeding the thin dough through a separate apparatus which cut the dough into noodles (either linguine or spaghetti). Students would then either separate the noodles from each other or use extra dough to hand-cut little bowtie pieces of pasta (called farfalle).

From there, all that was left was to enjoy a small, freshly-made meal in our classroom.

This activity was an amazing learning experience for our class. They learned how to make something with their own hands, follow processes, new language (such as linguine, spaghetti or farfalle), and gained an appreciation for the work involved to make something for yourself. A big thank you to Mrs. Geertsema for ALL of her help, patience, and willingness to come to our class and help us learn new things! Grazie!

As students waited for the pasta to cook, they wrote in their Reflection Journals about the process they had used to make pasta. Here are some quotes about their favourite parts:

“My favourite part was feeding the dough into the flattener because it was fun to use.” – Miriam B.

“A favourite was mixing all the ingredients with my hands. It felt COOL!” – Haley VG.

“Everything, especially when I made the long noodle. I love making pasta!” – Sam D.

“Smoothing the dough was awesome because it’s good hand exercise.” – Cian P.