Updated: May 18, 2021
I spent most of the past four months in Northern California at my dad’s house. After my mom died everyone converged on the house, and in short order a lot of other things fell apart. No one went home for a long time. I made some strange decisions about what to bring when I loaded the car that initial morning – watercolors, a stack of cookbooks, my camera, a favorite knife, a huge bin full of spices. I thought about bringing my favorite donabe, but was worried it could break and grabbed my pasta machine instead. Not a bad call – a lot of pasta was made! My nephew is especially enthusiastic about it, so I decided to branch out to a new shape – cavatelli.
The move to cavatelli was partially out of necessity. My workhorse, the Atlas pasta machine, has issues at my dad’s house. There is nothing to clamp it on to. Every countertop and table is too thick. It’s maddening. I noticed the clamp on the cavatelli maker seemed like it might be wider, so I thought we’d try it instead. It is also worth mentioning, I’ve been meaning to buy a cavatelli maker for years. Ragazza, a sweet little Italian spot, was just up the street from where we lived in San Francisco. The owner Sharon tipped me off to how she made their cavatelli from scratch with a little hand-cranked machine (something like this one) – and I’ve meant to get my hands on once since. This seemed like the right time.
About this Cavatelli Recipe
After a good amount of experimenting, I’ve settled on the following as my basic cavatelli dough and technique. Once you master it, the variations you can explore are endless (see below). The cavatelli machine likes pasta dough that’s not-too-wet and not-too-dry. If you hit the sweet spot, you’ll be able to crank out a pound of cavatelli incredibly quickly. If your dough is getting stuck in your machine, pat it with flour, dust off any excess, and try again. You’ll eventually get a feel for it!
What if I don’t have a Cavatelli Machine?
Not a big deal! You can make it by hand a number of other ways. Here’s a page that demonstrates how to shape cavatelli with a ridged board, fork, or grater. I’ve also seen it shaped traditionally in Puglia using something like a butter knife.
What Flour Should I Use?
Cavatelli is traditionally made with durum wheat semolina flour. But, if you don’t have that on hand, don’t let it stop you. Last week I was out of semolina flour, so the cavatelli you see pictured here was made with “00” flour. “00” is powder-fine and made with low gluten, soft wheat flour. If you don’t have “00” you can certainly 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 that’s what you have.
How To Freeze Cavatelli
Freezing is my preferred method of storing any cavatelli I’m not cooking immediately. Arrange freshly made, uncooked cavatelli across a floured baking sheet. Try to make sure they’re in a single layer. Freeze for a couple of hours, and then transfer to double layer plastic bags. You can freeze for up to a couple of months. And you can cook straight from the freezer. No need to thaw, just dump the cavatelli into boiling salted water, and increase the cooking time a bit.
In the recipe below you can see how you can tweak basic cavatelli pasta dough by adding different seasonings and spices. I wanted to make a bright, sunny plate of pasta with lots of roasted yellow and orange vegetables and ingredients like cauliflower, golden yellow beets, and winter squash (pictured above). I added turmeric and black pepper to the pasta dough for a little flavor, color, and boost. The possibilities are endless here.
You can also play around with the water. In place of water you can use vegetable juices, purees, stocks or broths, anything of that sort is fair game.
Making fresh pasta is one of my favorite things to do. It’s even better when you have others around to help, taking turns in shifts. I did a basic primer on making homemade pasta a while ago, if you love fettuccine noodles or anything along those lines, start there. You can also try making gnocchi (it’s perfect with this pesto), here’s a beautiful beet fettuccine, and a favorite simple tomato sauce. And all my pasta recipes live here. Enjoy!
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