Cooking for Clara

A Simple Bolognese for Grownups and Babies

By • October 16, 2012 • 37 Comments

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Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.

This week, it's all about texture.

Clara

Texture is a hot topic for the baby feeding crowd. Some believe that until your baby has a full set of teeth, you should only give her the softest of purees. Others say the fear of choking has been blown out of proportion.

Before we started Clara on solids Peter Steinberg, Charlie's dad, sent me a link to this fascinating blog post about baby-led weaning, which shows a video of an 8-month-old (also named Clara) cheerfully feeding herself apple slices. We weren't sure about starting out by letting Clara feed herself entirely, but it gave us some ideas.

For the first few weeks, I pressed cottage cheese through a sieve so that she wouldn't struggle with the curds. Pretty soon, though, it was clear that she was developing a sort of half-chewing technique, mushing the cottage cheese around in her mouth before swallowing it. When I gave up the sieve Clara quickly and enthusiastically adjusted, curds and all.

The same was true with the vegetables I cooked for her. I went from pushing slow-cooked carrots through a sieve to mashing them roughly with a potato masher, and Clara seemed to like the challenge of gumming the veggies now that they had a little more heft.

Bolognese Bolognese

The real payoff, however, came when we moved onto meat.

If you haven't pureed cooked meat before, I don't recommend it. Basically, you end up with cat food. But ground meat can be browned and simmered slowly with a little olive oil, garlic and plain stock or water for a baby with a few weeks of eating under her belt. A couple of important guidelines:

  • • Make sure to break up any large chunks while you're browning the meat
  • • Use a cut that's not too lean (dark meat chicken rather than light, chuck rather than sirloin) so that it gets tender as it cooks, rather than tough

Bolognese Bolognese

Recently I added tomatoes to the mix, and Clara had her first Bolognese. Because we didn't need to puree it, we were able to enjoy the Bolognese with rigatoni, while she ate it with pastine (those adorable little pasta stars you're always looking for an excuse to buy).

Here's the recipe:

Bolognese

A Simple Bolognese for Grownups and Babies

Serves 4 as a main course, baby for several days

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef (I prefer 85% lean -- you can also use lamb, chicken, turkey or pork)
  • Pinch salt (optional)
  • 1 fat garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 28 ounces canned peeled tomatoes

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Here's a recap of the 2 other recipes I've written about so far that are good for babies in their first couple months of eating solid foods:

Carrots Cooked Forever  Homemade Fruit YogurtCarrots Cooked Forever                                    Homemade Fruit Yogurt

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: baby food, bolognese, clara, texture, feeding children, everyday cooking

Comments (37)

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over 1 year ago reynaul.deshazor

Great series! Can't wait to see more!

Bss-sun-150

over 1 year ago softenbrownsugar

Love, love, love the Clara food articles (and her cute little food-tester face).... I always send them to my Daughter-in-Law so she can make the recipes (or get ideas) for our own beloved little Clara! Thanks, Merrill.

Ashtaco

over 1 year ago wanderash

i love this series! i have a 4 yr. old and a 1 yr. old and we are finally all (sort of) eating the same thing-- albeit slightly deconstructed for the 1 yr. old. we all ate tom's tofu stir fry last week. i am going to make bolognase this week. keep the inspiration coming!

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over 1 year ago mariaraynal

A terrific series - makes me want an pretty little baby like Clara to cook for. I can't help but wonder if feeding her food with a little texture early on will help prevent the aversion to texture so many kids seem develop as toddlers.

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over 1 year ago Magda Bogin

What a lucky baby! Brings back the days...

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over 1 year ago Elycooks

Oh my, Merrill. Clara is just too adorable. My kids are teens now but it's so fun to re-live the baby years with you!

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks so much!

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over 1 year ago JadeTree

Merrill, this is so much fun to read. My girl is now 15 months and she loves your Weeknight Ragu with linguine and your mashed potatoes and parsnips! It's just delightful to see a child eating good food, isn't it?

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Indeed!

Jampro

over 1 year ago Bevi

Merrill - I am really enjoying your Cooking for Clara features. It takes me back to the days when I cooked everything fresh for my 2 kids from the time they could eat solids. I often used a plastic food mill to break down cooked solids - it was so easy to clean and my most important kitchen tool at the time. I got fancy with Shepard's Pies, pasta (and I loved to use the pastine), and all sorts of vegetable purees. This takes me back.

And Clara is just adorable.

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks, Bevi! Glad you're enjoying this column.

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over 1 year ago healthierkitchen

Merrill - Clara is just gorgeous whatever she's eating! I can't believe it, but I have no idea anymore what my kids age ate at that age.

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over 1 year ago healthierkitchen

and love, love the bow!

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over 1 year ago Waverly

Clara is precious!

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you, Waverly!

P1000838

over 1 year ago jvcooks

Such a sweet face -- she's adorable! When I use to make baby bolognese for my boys I would grate a carrot into the sauce for a little sweetness. My guys loved it -- maybe Clara will too :)

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Great idea! She loves her carrots...

Sanfransteph

over 1 year ago LazyVeggie

That face could sell me any recipe! She is beautiful.

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you!

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over 1 year ago Haninay

This is not an appropriate recipe for babies when using pre-canned tomatoes. The FDA has banned food containers for infants and young children with BPA ( http://www.nytimes.com... ) due to concerns about BPA's endocrine disruption and effects on brain development and behavior. Canned tomatoes are especially high in BPA because of the way the acid in tomatoes causes the BPA in the lining of the can to leach into the tomatoes. While this recipe looks tasty, it should be used only with tomatoes from tetra packs or glass jars of tomatoes.

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

There are plenty of brands of canned tomatoes that do not use BPAs in their packaging: http://livingmaxwell.com.... And of course, there is always Pomi.

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over 1 year ago Haninay

Yes, Pomi is a tetra pack. If you read the article that you just posted, the only brand that has BPA-free tomato cans is Muir Glen (and not all of their cans), which is hardly "plenty of brands".

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

This is clearly an issue you feel strongly about, but I don't think this is the appropriate forum. There are canned tomatoes (and packaged tomatoes) that do not contain BPAs -- people can make decisions accordingly.

Ozoz_profile

over 1 year ago Kitchen Butterfly

She is gorgeous, forget the bolognese. give me Clara. Pretty in Pink!!!!

Kandm

over 1 year ago Kristy Mucci

Kristy is an expert at making things pretty and a former Associate Editor of Food52.

I agree!

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over 1 year ago amysarah

First, Clara is too cute! She must be stopped!

Second, your mention of pastine really brings back memories. It was a big staple for my kids at that age - and long after. Sometimes with a little tomato sauce, or chicken broth, but most often with a knob of butter and grated parm stirred in. They also liked it with some small curd cottage cheese (or ricotta) mixed in, and a spoonful of sugar sprinkled over the top. It's still one of my college senior daughter's comfort foods - when I went to visit her in her first apt., sophomore year, there was a box of pastine on her kitchen shelf. Reassuring for her - and me.

Flower-bee

over 1 year ago Droplet

When your hair accessories match your spoon and you eat pastina, you have got to be a connoisseur at heart :)

Ozoz_profile

over 1 year ago Kitchen Butterfly

Well said! Colour coordination at its finest.

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over 1 year ago EmilyC

That's a very sweet pic! My daughter will be ready for bolognese soon -- I'm hoping it's a hit. I recall adding a little yogurt to bolognese when my son was a baby, but then again, adding a little yogurt was my solution to everything! Want "creamed" spinach -- add yogurt! Want "creamy" squash -- add yogurt! You get the idea! : )

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you! I actually cooked some spinach the other day with the idea of making "creamed spinach" with yogurt, so will do that tonight!

Mrs._larkin_370

over 1 year ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Hooray for Clara! Prepare yourselves for the day when she will want to feed herself. It's gonna get messy, but fun! I think I always had a damp dish towel at the ready.

When my teenagers were babies, which seems like exactly yesterday, pasta bolognese was one of their favorites. I'd whirr it in the mini chopper...perfect baby food!

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Bolognese was a favorite of both my boys at that age. I minced a carrot , which I added with the onion. They both enthusiastically enjoyed a light touch of grated parmesan or pecorino as well. Also, I haven't looked at the video you linked about self feeding, but I do remember both boys insisting on being given a spoon to hold while we were feeding them. Of course, they got in on the action as they tried to feed themselves, which was one of the most hilarious things I've ever witnessed. ;o)

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

We just entered the dual spoon phase -- pretty funny!

Lnd_jen

over 1 year ago lastnightsdinner

I could look at pictures of Clara all day! What a doll :) I'll never forget how thrilled I was when Julian had his first taste of my Bolognese. He literally started "mmmmmmMMM"-ing, and bouncing up and down until I gave him more. It was so awesome. We had great luck in the early days with confit, too - duck and chicken legs were, and continue to be, big favorites.

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Great idea! Haven't done duck yet.

Karl

over 1 year ago Karl Rosaen

Karl is Food52's VP of Technology.

What a cutie!

Merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks, Karl!