Pasta

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Egg
  • Wheat
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

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a pile of egg noodles before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat pasta?

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.1 2

Need ideas for the best first foods for babies? See our guides.

Background and origins of pasta

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.

Is pasta healthy for babies?

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.3 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.

Pasta types by key nutrients

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
Legume Pasta Carbs (g) Fiber (g) Protein (g) Iron (g) Zinc (g) Folate (mg)
Black Bean Pasta 9.3 2.5 3.0 0.7 n/a n/a
Chickpea Pasta 9.3 2.0 3.0 0.6 n/a n/a
Lentil Pasta 8.8 1.3 3.3 0.9 n/a n/a
Mung Bean Noodles
(aka “glass noodles” or “cellophane noodles”)
9.8 0 0 0.2 0.04 0
Enriched Pasta
Enriched Egg Noodles 10.1 0.5 1.8 0.6 0.3 33.5
Enriched Wheat Pasta 10.8 0.6 2.0 0.4 0.2 25.5
Grain Pasta
100% Buckwheat Noodles 9.8 1.5 1.8 0.6 n/a n/a
100% Whole Wheat Pasta 10.5 1.4 2.1 0.6 0.5 7.4
Brown Rice Noodles 10.6 0.6 1.1 0.2 0.3 1.3
Quinoa and Corn Pasta 10.3 1.1 1.1 0.2 0.2 2.65
Unenriched Wheat Pasta 9.6 0.6 1.8 0.2 0.2 2.2
White Rice Noodles 10.5 0.4 0.8 0.1 0.1 0.4
Vegetable Pasta
Cassava Pasta 12.3 1.0 0.2 0.5 n/a n/a
Sweet Potato Noodles (aka “glass” or “Korean vermicelli”) 12.1 0.6 0.0 0.0 n/a n/a
* 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.

Is pasta a common choking hazard for babies?

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.

Is pasta a common allergen?

Yes. Pasta and noodles often contain egg and wheat, which are common food allergens.4 5 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.6 7 8

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.

Which pasta shapes are best for babies?

6 to 9 months old: 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.

9 to 12 months old: 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.

12 to 18 months old: 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.

18 to 24 months old: 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.

Recipe: Pasta di Ceci

Chickpea Pasta

chickpea pasta coated in garlic and oil topped with Parmesan cheese

Yield: 1 ½ cups (1 adult-sized serving and 1 child-sized serving)

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ pound chickpea pasta
  • 8 cups water
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

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.

Directions

  1. Peel and smash the garlic.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. When it shimmers, add the garlic and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Discard the cloves.
  3. Bring the water to a boil. Add the chickpea pasta to the boiling water, stirring to break up any noodles that stick together. Cook until soft, between 8 and 10 minutes, depending on the shape.
  4. Use a slotted spoon or fine-mesh sieve to transfer the pasta directly from the boiling water to the skillet. Stir to coat in the garlicky oil.
  5. Serve: Scoop some pasta into baby’s bowl and sprinkle a pinch of Parmesan cheese on top. Exact serving size is variable. Let baby’s appetite determine how much is served. Encourage baby to self-feed by letting them scoop the pasta up with their hands. When you are ready, create opportunities for utensil practice by pre-loading a fork and modeling how to use trainer chopsticks.

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.

Flavor Pairings

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 beefbison, or lamb and/or vegetables like bell peppereggplant, or zucchini. Serve pasta mixed with broccolicauliflower romanesco, or spinach. Add a simple creamy sauce made of goat cheesemascarpone 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 almondpecanhazelnut, or walnut on top of pasta dishes to add texture.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved February 3, 2021
  2. Food Allergy Research & Education. Egg Allergy. Retrieved February 3, 2021
  3. United States Food & Drug Administration. Questions and Answers on FDA’s Fortification Policy Guidance for Industry. Retrieved February 3, 2021
  4. Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved February 3, 2021
  5. Food Allergy Research & Education. Egg Allergy. Retrieved February 3, 2021
  6. Kim J. H. (2019). Clinical and Laboratory Predictors of Egg Allergy Resolution in Children. Allergy, asthma & immunology research, 11(4), 446–449. DOI:10.4168/aair.2019.11.4.446. Retrieved February 3, 2021
  7. Leonard, S.A., Sampson, H.A., Sicherer, S.H., Noone, S., Moshier, E.L., Godbold, J., Nowak-Wȩgrzyn, A. (2012). Dietary baked egg accelerates resolution of egg allergy in children. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 130(2), 473–480.e1. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.06.006. Retrieved February 3, 2021
  8. Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved February 3, 2021