What's Cooking Wednesdays: La Prima Pappa

You know the game Who's The Best Mom where mothers try to top each other in areas like breastfeeding (duration, quality), language development (bi versus multi), child care (eco, orgo, bio) and food (homemade versus nanny-made)? I played it last month and lost on the the 11-hour Paris-LAX flight where my five-month-old threw up on through three different changes of clothing and a pair of Air France pillow cases, prompting a backseat mother to snidely ask why I hadn't brought any additional clothing. And then I lost again in the Whole Foods Market on 3rd and Fairfax when inquiring of a seemingly pleasant mother about Earth's Best carrots and peas.

Her response was snide, "I have no clue. I make all my food at home."

From her reaction, I realized that I suck because I was about to buy jarred food. That's when I gathered up my ego and replied, "My daughter is on the Italian diet," grabbed some carrots and fled.

What the hell is the Italian diet? Technically, it's the Prima Pappa (the first baby food) and unlike its American counterpart of mashed peas or carrots, it is a gourmet meal that usually begins around four months old. And it's basically homemade.

In honor of my latest cooking capolavoro, here's the recipe for all mothers who want to know what Italian babies eat.

one carrot
one or two potatoes
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
a spoonful of extra-virgin olive oil
two spoonfuls of cream of rice (or corn or tapioca)
100 grams of light meat (rabbit or lamb)

Food processor (or blender), spoon, bowls

1. Make a broth of chopped potatoes and carrot, and 3 cups of water. No need to add anything else. When broth is ready, remove carrot and potatoes. In a separate bowl, puree skinless potatoes and carrots.

2. Steam meat until tender (some even suggest boiling and then steaming), then mash up in food processor.Note: If you are not able to buy fresh, high-quality meat, homogenized (and subsequently jarred) meat for babies is an adequate substitute. Ask your pediatrician.

3. In baby's bowl, mix together about 3/4 cup of carrot/potato broth, 2 tablespoons of cream of rice, a spoonful of olive oil, some freshly grated Parmigiano, and two large teaspoons of meat (about 40 grams). Voila! Your baby is Italian.

For now, according to the pediatrician, use the purees for yourself. After a few meals, you will add the potato/carrot puree to the pappa. (I separately puree carrots and potatoes as I live in fear of a beta carotene baby.) Eventually, you will introduce different meats, baby cheese and seasonal vegetables one at a time.

No. I don't toil in my kitchen every day for Baby X's pappa-- especially since the broth can be frozen for later use, the purees refrigerated, and yes, the meat pre-made (though I prefer picking mine out at the macellaio). Remember-- always ask your pediatrician before introducing foods to your baby. The American doctor will probably shun Parmigiano.