Italian Word of the Day: Pappa (mush / baby food)

The word pappa (feminine, plural: pappe) in Italian traditionally refers to a thick minestra (soup) cooked in water, broth or milk, containing bread or semolina. It is used as food for newly weaned babies or for adults who have difficulty chewing.

cover image with the word “pappa” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of cofee

These days, pappa refers more broadly to any dish with a mushy texture, including porridge, all types of baby food, and even overcooked risotto or pasta.

Vuoi che mangi questa pappa? Ma neanche morto! Mangiala tu!

You want me to eat this mush? No way! You eat it!

Positive young mother giving spoon of baby food to son sat in highchair while having lunch
Il bambino sta mangiando la pappa. = The baby is eating baby food.

What’s more, when addressing children, its meaning can be extended to food in general, or a meal at any time of day, regardless of its consistency! Used in this broad sense, it is similar in meaning to the infantile expression din-dins in English.

Bambini, venite a tavola: la pappa è pronta!

Kids, come to the table: breakfast / lunch / dinner is ready!

African American black boy showing tongue and Asian kid enjoy eating french fries at table in the restaurant or cafe, playful kid having fun together.
La pappa è servita! = Lunch is served!

Quite often, you will hear the diminutive form pappetta used instead of pappa.

Ho dimenticato il risotto sui fornelli ed è diventato una pappetta immangiabile.

I forgot the risotto on the stove and it became an inedible mushy mess.

Related to pappa is the verb pappare which has two meanings:

  • to wolf down, to devour, to gobble up (food)
  • to make off with, to pocket (money, an inheritance, etc.)

Idioms featuring the word ‘pappa’

Volere / trovare la pappa pronta

Literal translation: to want / to find ready-made food
English meaning: to want to be spoon-fed / to find everything already done for you

Essere pappa e ciccia

Literal translation: to be mush and flab
English meaning: to be perfectly matched, well-suited, best friends

Pappa molle

Literal translation: soft mush
English meaning: lazybones, slacker

two boys smiling with hand over the shoulders over each others, one holding a foot ball
Sono pappa e ciccia! = They’re best friends!

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