Rainbow Pasta

Belle wanted pasta (for like the 10th time in two days, because toddler palates are so very varied). I wanted to occupy her while I cooked and to make the food fun. Enter rainbow pasta!

Rainbow pasta dye stations
Make predictions and observations about what will happen when colors are mixed.

Today’s target is a little learning about the color wheel and mixing colors, so the key is getting Belle to pay attention to what happens when red and yellow are mixed, or yellow and blue, or blue and red. At not quite 3, she’s a little young for predictions, though we try with “What do you think would happen if…?” Instead, we focus on pausing to observe the water after we add food coloring. “Let’s add a little bit more and see what happens – yes, it’s more red now! What if we add yellow? Is it still red or a little bit orange? More yellow? A lot a bit orange!”

Portion out rainbow pasta

Once the pasta is added, the next question is if it will change the pasta. Belle needed encouragement to “shake, shake, shake! Now check!” but eventually got it and was extra enthusiastic about rinsing the pasta and taste-testing for differences.

Shaking purple pasta
Buddy got into the action – shake, shake, shake!

We didn’t – but could have – used the differently colored pieces of pasta to actually build a rainbow on a plate or piece of paper, thereby reinforcing the order of colors in a rainbow and fine motor placement.

Skills worked on:

  • Early art (color wheel, rainbow)
  • Early science (predictions, observations)
  • Gross motor (upper body shaking)
  • Fine motor (drops of food coloring)


  • 5 pint/quart jars with lids, or ziplock bags
  • Pot
  • Colander

Rainbow pasta bowl

Recipe (30 min, yield: 1 box of cooked pasta):

  • 1 box of pasta (type doesn’t matter)
  • Food coloring (red, blue, and yellow at a minimum)
  • Water
  1. Cook pasta according to directions. As it cooks, set up the dye stations.
  2. In 5 jars or ziplock bags, add 2 tbsp water and 10 drops of food coloring as follows: Red: 10 drops red; Orange: 5 drops yellow + 5 drops red, Yellow: not applicable since you’ll use undyed pasta; Green: 5 drops yellow + 5 drops blue; Blue: 10 drops blue; Purple: 5 drops red + 5 drops blue. Note that none of this has to be precise.
  3. Drain the pasta in a colander. Portion the pasta into your dye stations, putting 1/6 back into the pot.
  4. Seal your dye/pasta container and shake! Get everything good and covered.
  5. One color at a time, put pasta back into colander to rinse off excess dye, then add back into the pot. Toss and serve with your favorite sauce or topping.

This recipe is part of our coronavirus/Covid-19 quarantine bake-along. See the previous recipe here: Irish Brown Soda Bread. See the next recipe here: No Sugar Added Whole Wheat Banana Bread

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Rainbow pasta pin

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