Pasta may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Take care when introducing pasta if you haven’t already introduced egg or wheat into baby’s diet yet, as pasta often contains both egg and wheat, which are common food allergens.
Need ideas for the best first foods for babies? See our guides.
Pasta or noodles? Both terms refer to unleavened dough made of starch and liquid, formed into any number of shapes, boiled quickly, and flavored with sauce and spice. The word “pasta” comes from Italy, while the term “noodles” is used interchangeably by some to describe not only pasta, but mian, ramen, soba, udon, and other dishes made in East Asia since ancient times. So, where was this beloved comfort food invented? It’s a hot debate—but no matter the term, one fact is clear: pasta and noodles are now international staple foods. From koshari (macaroni and lentils) in Egypt, seviyan kheer (noodle pudding) in India, sopa de fideo (noodle soup) in Mexico, and the classic spaghetti Bolognese of Italy, pasta has found a place in nearly every food culture.
Levi, 7 months, tastes pasta for the first time.
Sevigne, 9 months, eats flat egg noodles.
Isar, 12 months, eats pasta made from chickpeas.
Yes—with some types offering more nutrition than others. Generally pasta made from legume flour (black bean pasta, chickpea pasta, lentil pasta) is more nutrient-dense than pasta made from rice and wheat flours. Enriched pasta will also offer even more nutrients like iron and some B vitamins. All pasta, no matter the type, offers ample carbohydrates to energize a baby’s growing body, and when it is served as part of a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole foods, pasta can be a perfectly healthy addition to a baby’s meal.
The following is a table of common pastas and their nutritional value by key ingredients, using data from USDA’s FoodData Central unless otherwise specified, accessed February 4, 2021.
Per ¼ cup child-sized serving
Black Bean Pasta
Mung Bean Noodles (aka “glass noodles” or “cellophane noodles”)
Enriched Egg Noodles
Enriched Wheat Pasta
100% Buckwheat Noodles
100% Whole Wheat Pasta
Brown Rice Noodles
Quinoa and Corn Pasta
Unenriched Wheat Pasta
White Rice Noodles
Sweet Potato Noodles (aka “glass” or “Korean vermicelli”)
* Some alternative pastas are blended with other ingredients such as egg or wheat flour. Always read the ingredient list and safely introduce any common allergens like egg and wheat before serving pasta to baby.
No. Pasta is not a common choking hazard, though it can cause a fair amount of gagging, especially when served plain, without a sauce. To make it easier to swallow, serve pasta with a sauce, or simply drizzle a bit of oil on top and consider offering large pasta shapes if baby is just starting solids. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals, and check out the age-appropriate serving suggestions. For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.
Yes. Pasta and noodles often contain egg and wheat, which are common food allergens. Read the fine print on the product label before serving, and ideally, wait to serve pasta after egg and wheat have been introduced and any allergies ruled out. Have a wheat or egg allergy on your hands already? There is hope. Studies show about 80% of children outgrow egg allergy around school age, and wheat allergies are often outgrown by adolescence.
As you would do with any new allergen, introduce pasta by serving a small quantity and watch closely. If there is no adverse reaction during the first few servings, gradually increase the amount served over future meals.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
Offer large pieces of flat, wide noodles or whole pieces of large tubular pasta, such as penne, rigatoni, or ziti. Pasta may be slippery and a little tough to hold on to with the immature grasp at this age. You may also chop spaghetti and other thin noodle shapes and serve in a bowl for hand scooping. Tip: Use kitchen shears to cut noodles in your child’s bowl to save time (and dishes). Anxious to introduce macaroni and cheese? Hold off until closer to 12 months of age as it is exceedingly high in sodium. And even after the first birthday, consider cutting the cheese packet in half to minimize the sodium.
At this age babies develop the pincer grasp (where the thumb and pointer finger meet), enabling them to pick up smaller pieces of food. Cut large, tubular pastas in half, or offer macaroni, quartered ravioli, or chopped noodles. If a baby is having a hard time picking up the pasta, it’s okay to continue to serve whole pieces of large, tubular pasta. Doing so will help advance biting and chewing and grinding skills.
At this age, your toddler may be more adept at working with long, thin noodles like spaghetti, ramen, and rice noodles. Explore a wide variety of noodle shapes and textures, cutting into smaller strands as needed (again, scissors work beautifully here). Don’t worry if your toddler still prefers to scoop noodles with their hands—that’s okay! Simply continue to offer a pre-loaded utensil as needed.
Anything goes! Explore a wide variety of pasta shapes and sizes. This is a great time to let your toddler practice with trainer chopsticks or a fork, pre-loading utensils as needed.
How often should you offer solids? See our sample feeding schedules for babies of every age.
2 cups (480 milliliters)
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) olive oil
4 ounces (113 grams) rigatoni
8 cups (2 liters) water
1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) lemon juice
pecorino cheese to taste for adults and older children (optional: only for children 12 months+)
salt to taste for adults and older children (optional: only for children 12 months+)
Depending on the type of pasta used, this recipe may contain common allergens: egg and/or wheat. Read the ingredient list on the label, and only serve to a child after each allergen has been introduced safely.
Peel and smash the garlic.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and stir to coat.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Discard the cloves. Keep the skillet on the stovetop.
Bring a separate pot of water to a boil.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, stirring to break up any noodles that stick together. If rigatoni is not your thing, use your preferred noodles or pasta to make this recipe. Just be sure to select a product with ingredients that have been safely introduced.
Cook until soft, between 8 and 10 minutes, depending on the shape.
Use a slotted spoon or fine-mesh sieve to transfer the pasta directly from the boiling water to the skillet. Add the lemon juice and stir to coat the pasta in the sauce.
Scoop some pasta into baby’s bowl. Exact serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat.
If you’d like to serve the pasta to adults and older children, season it with pecorino cheese and salt to taste. See our Sodium and Babies FAQ for information on when to start adding salt to a child’s foods.
Serve the pasta as finger food and let baby self-feed. If you’d like to encourage utensil practice, pre-load an age-appropriate fork and rest it next to baby’s pasta for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the pre-loaded fork in the air for baby to grab from you.
To Store: Cooked pasta keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 5 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
Dinnertime fast approaching and all out of ideas? Our guide 100 Dinners for Babies & Toddlers is here to help.
Pasta tastes mild and hearty on its own. But when served with sauces, spices, vegetables, and whole foods, noodles soak up seasonings and offer more nutrition to growing babies. Try enhancing a classic tomato sauce with ground meat like beef, bison, or lamb and/or vegetables like bell pepper, eggplant, or zucchini. Serve pasta mixed with broccoli, cauliflower romanesco, or spinach. Add a simple creamy sauce made of goat cheese, mascarpone cheese, or ricotta cheese that has been loosened with whole milk and seasoned with a splash of lemon and a dash of ground pepper. Or use pasta as a vehicle for heart-healthy nuts by serving noodles with peanut sauce or sprinkling ground almond, pecan, hazelnut, or walnut on top of pasta dishes to add texture.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Speech-language pathologist & feeding therapist
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