I've spent most of the past four months in Northern California at my father's house. After my mother died, everyone in the house came together and in a short time many other things fell apart. Nobody went home for a long time. I made some strange decisions about what to bring when I loaded the car that first morning – watercolors, a stack of cookbooks, my camera, a favorite knife, a huge container full of spices. I thought about bringing my favorite donabe but was concerned it might break and grabbed my pasta machine instead. Not a bad call – lots of pasta was made! My nephew is especially fond of this, so I decided to branch into a new form – Cavatelli.
The move to Cavatelli was partly out of necessity. My workhorse, the Atlas pasta machine, is having problems in my father's house. There is nothing to clamp it to. Every worktop and table is too thick. It's crazy. I noticed that the bracket on the Cavatelli maker seemed to be wider so I figured we'd try instead. It's also worth noting that I've wanted to buy a Cavatelli maker for years. Ragazza, a cute little Italian town, was just up the street from where we lived in San Francisco. Owner Sharon gave me a hint about how she made her Cavatelli from scratch using a small hand-cranked machine (something like this one) – and I've wanted to get my hands on it ever since. This seemed like the right time.
About this Cavatelli recipe
After some experimentation, I've settled on the following as my basic Cavatelli batter and technique. Once you master it, the variations to explore are endless (see below). The Cavatelli machine likes pasta dough that is neither too wet nor too dry. If you hit the sweet spot, you can crank out a pound of Cavatelli incredibly quickly. If your dough gets stuck in your machine, blot it with flour, dust off any excess material, and try again. You will get a feel for it at some point!
What if I don't have a Cavatelli machine?
No big deal! You can do it by hand in several other ways. This page shows how to shape cavatelli with a fluted board, fork or grater. I also saw that in Puglia it was traditionally shaped with something like a butter knife.
Which flour should I use?
Cavatelli is traditionally made from durum wheat semolina flour. But if you don't have that on hand, don't let it stop you. Last week I ran out of semolina flour, so the cavatelli shown here were made from “00” flour. Is "00" Powder-fine and made with low-gluten soft wheat flour. If you don't have a "00" then you can definitely use all-purpose flour. A long way of saying make cavatelli with 100% semolina flour if you have it, or use equal parts "00" and semolina, or just "00" … go for the all-purpose flour if you have that.
How to Freeze Cavatelli
Freezing is my preferred method of storing cavatelli that I don't cook right away. Place freshly prepared, uncooked Cavatelli on a floured baking sheet. Make sure they are on a single level. Freeze for a couple of hours and then transfer to double-layer plastic bags. They can freeze for up to a couple of months. And you can cook straight from the freezer. You don't have to defrost, just put the Cavatelli in boiling salted water and extend the cooking time a little.
In the recipe below you can see how you can tweak the simple Cavatelli pasta dough by adding different condiments and seasonings. I wanted to make a bright, sunny plate of pasta with lots of toasted yellow and orange vegetables and ingredients like cauliflower, golden beets, and winter squash (see picture above). I added turmeric and black pepper to the pasta batter for a bit of flavor, color, and buoyancy. The possibilities are endless here.
You can also play around with the water. Instead of water, you can use vegetable juices, purees, broths or broths. Anything like this is fair game.
Making fresh pasta is one of my favorite things to do. It's even better when others help and take turns taking turns in shifts. A while ago I made a primer for making homemade pasta. If you love fettuccine pasta or something similar, start there. You can also try making gnocchi (it goes perfectly with this pesto). Here's a beautiful beet fettuccine and a simple tomato sauce. And all of my pasta recipes live here. Enjoy!
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