Dying pasta and rice for sensory play is something that I have been doing for years. It is way easier than I ever thought it would be, and only requires pasta two additional items that you probably already have in your cupboard: vinegar and food coloring. The pasta I’m featuring in this post was made for two purposes: my youngest daughter’s Thanksgiving sensory bin, and my oldest daughter’s fall pasta necklace project. I’m sure it will get used in plenty of other ways once my kids figure out that they have a new craft material at their disposal. Always crafting!
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I started using gel paste food coloring a few years ago after I got extremely frustrated trying to use the standard food coloring liquid, you know the ones in the tiny squeeze bottles that you use to dye your eggs at Easter, to dye fondant for my son’s batman cake black. I ended up sending my poor hubby up to the store for more food coloring at one point almost in tears. While he was gone I turned to my friend google thinking that other people must dye their fondant and frosting black, maybe there is something else in my kitchen that will magically help. There wasn’t, but I did see gel paste mentioned several time and I was able to finally get the fondant to resemble the color black more than gray and just rolled it out and went with it.
Although I was still hesitant I ordered Americolor soft gel paste food color shortly thereafter the Batman cake fiasco, and fell in love with it the first time I used it. It’s so much easier to get the true color you are looking for without adding half the bottle of the liquid stuff. I still use the liquid stuff, just not as frequently. You could absolutely use it here on the pasta, but you will need many drops to get a bold color.
First gather up all your ingredients, vinegar, pasta, and soft gel paste colors of choice. Also pulled out the tools you will use, 1 cup measuring cup, 1/4 teaspoon, 4 gallon sized food storage bags (not pictured), 2 cookie sheets lined with foil (not pictured). Although the foil isn’t necessary on the cookie sheets, scrubbing off colored food gels didn’t sound fun to me. So I took the easy way out, ha!
That’s not too bad, right? In each bag add 1 Tablespoon of plain white vinegar and approximately 1/4 teaspoon of each color.
Now seal up those bags and squish the vinegar and coloring around until they are well blended. I didn’t trust myself to do this step without sealing the baggie, better safe that sorry!
Now break out that 1 cup measuring cup and divide out the pasta you will be using into the bags. You will want to put about half of a box into each bag. For me, this worked out to be about 2 3/4 cups of Rigatoni in 2 of the bags, and 2 1/4 cups of Ziti in the other two bags. Now seal up those bags and shake them up! Anyone else hearing Outcast in their head (‘Shake it like a Polaroid picture’)? No, just me then.
Whew, that was a lot of shaking! Almost done folks. Now simply dump out your pasta onto your foil prepared cookie sheets and let them sit for 3-4 hours, or until dry. If your pasta pieces are touching like mine you are going to want to stir them and/or gently break them apart around the 2-3 hour mark. If you leave them overnight they will be stuck together and will most likely end up breaking when you try to separate then. Sad! If your pasta pieces are not touching you don’t need to worry about this, just dump them out and forget them for 3-4 hours.
Once they are dry, get crafting or bag them up (new baggies!) for later use.
Here is the step by step instructions with an ingredient list:
16 ounces/1 box of uncooked rigatoni
16 ounces/1 box of uncooked ziti
4 tablespoons of vinegar
Approximately ¼ tsp each AmeriColor soft gel paste: Red Red, Orange, Lemon Yellow, Chocolate Brown
4 gallon sized zip lock bags + extra for storage
2 foil lined cookie sheets
- Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to each gallon size zip lock bag
- Squeeze approximately ¼ teaspoon of food gel into each bag so your have one bag of each color. Squish it around until the gel is dissolved in the vinegar. If you’re using liquid food coloring, do the same.
- Divide the pasta equally between the 4 bags. For the Rigatoni I measured out about 2 ¾ cups into the red and brown bags. For the Ziti I measured about 2 ¼ cups into the yellow and orange bags.
- Shake the bags until the noodles are covered.
- I lined my cookie sheets with foil for easy clean up but you don’t have to do this step if you don’t want to.
- Dump the pasta out onto the sheets and kind of shake it around so that the pasta is in one layer.
- Walk away and let it dry for 3-4 hours. Note: if your pasta is not in one layer or is touching you are going to want to stir it so that the pieces do not dry stuck together. After 3 hours I had some that were stuck together and I was easily able to pull them apart without breaking the pasta. If you let it dry overnight like this it may be difficult to break it apart without breaking the noodles into pieces
- Check on your pasta after 3 hours, if it’s dry you can bag it up or start crafting, if not leave it sit until it is. Once it’s dry, start crafting!
I hope that this was helpful!