CAMBRIDGE — On this chilly Friday afternoon in March at Catalyst, the staff is preparing for a post-work crowd that in an hour and a half will fill every seat of the stylishly modern bar, spill into nearby tables, and surround a roaring fireplace. In the kitchen, there is a cacophony of chopping knives, clanking pans, and chatter from eight children ages 6 to 11, as they watch pasta being made from scratch.
“Whoa, that’s so cool,” says Alex Fucile, 8, as a strip of dough is fed into a hand-cranked machine and churns out tiny ribbed cavatelli shells. When cooked, the ricotta-infused pasta will be mixed with asparagus, mushrooms, and a butter sauce. “The ridges will help bind the sauce and ingredients,” says William Kovel, chef and owner of the Kendall Square restaurant. He points to the mound of shells made by pasta chef Andres Arango. “You guys want to feel it?” Small fingers squish the pasta. “Cavatelli helps make the best mac and cheese,” Kovel says. “You can use Parmesan, cheddar, Velveeta — no, not Velveeta any more. That’s what I grew up with.”