Are you ready to taste the rainbow? Sounds exciting, right? Unfortunately, we’re not having candy for dinner — but if you’re into noodles (who’s not into noodles?), this recipe for naturally-dyed rainbow pasta is just as good and even more fun.
This rainbow pasta is super-easy to make. It’s dyed completely naturally, using just a few vegetables and spices to create a full rainbow of colors. This “dye” is gorgeous and vibrant, but completely harmless and nearly or completely flavorless.
We went with traditional spaghetti for this recipe, but the dyes will work with any variety of pasta or noodles. White noodles take on the color best, but whole-wheat pasta works, too; the colors just won’t be as bright. If you’re going with gluten-free noodles, I recommend a lighter variety such as corn, quinoa or chickpea noodles.
To start, cook a box of pasta in well-salted water for 2 minutes less than the recommended time so it doesn’t get mushy when you soak it in the natural dyes. Rinse it in cold water to prevent further cooking and separate it into six Tupperware bowls or Ziploc baggies and set aside.
Next, create the natural pasta dyes. The dyes involve four simple ingredients: turmeric, purple cabbage, beets and baking soda. We’ll start with simple pink, purple and yellow dyes. The remaining colors will be created through a little food chemistry, or by mixing dyes together.
For example, purple cabbage contains a pigment called anthocyanin, which is an acid/base indicator. This means that it changes color when it comes into contact with something acidic or alkaline. If you add a base, such as baking soda, the color instantly changes from purple to blue. (Want to try out another color-changing noodle recipe? Check out our unicorn spring rolls, in which we change the noodle filling from purple to pink!)
Here’s how to create each of the natural dyes for rainbow pasta:
Yellow dye: Boil 3 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of thinly sliced or grated fresh turmeric until the water turns a deep yellow color (five to 10 minutes).
Pink dye: Boil 2 cups (1 large beet) of chopped beets in 2 cups water until the water turns a deep pink color (five to 10 minutes).
Purple dye: Boil 3 cups water with one head chopped purple cabbage until water turns a deep purple color (10–12 minutes).
Orange dye: Mix 1/3 cup pink dye and 1 cup yellow dye.
Blue dye: Add 1 teaspoon baking soda to 2 cups purple dye and watch the color magically change to blue! (Actually, it is not magic; it’s science.)
Green dye: Mix 1 cup yellow dye and 1 cup blue dye.
Pour each dye into a separate pasta bag or container and allow the pasta to soak up the dyes for 30 minutes to two hours. The pasta will be brilliantly colorful and ready to serve in your favorite pasta dish.