About every few weeks, I get a craving for fresh homemade pasta. Because there are no italian restaurants here in the Marshall Islands, the only way to eat italian food is to make it yourself. There are several restaurants in Majuro that make pizza but they are more American-style than traditional italian. And you can find big jars of Prego sauce and and packages of Western Family brand dry pasta at the supermarket, but that certainly won't satisfy my craving. What I want is soft but elastic fresh pasta, preferaby with a short rib ragu or simply with broccoli robe and a touch of anchovies.... Mmmm.
I have been watching many different YouTube videos recently to learn new ways to shape pasta like orechiette, penne, fusilli, bow tie, etc., and I thought cavatelli seemed like a very easy shape to try as a beginner.
Unlike rolled pasta, short pasta uses egg-less pasta dough and, traditionally, durum wheat flour (semolina). If you can get it, that would be the best kind of flour to use. This pasta dough is a simple mixture of flour, salt and water so the quality of flour is the key. However, sometimes you have no choice. If you live in a place where you can't get semolina (like Majuro), the next best choice would be a strong flour or bread flour which has more gluten in it. And then if you can't even find bread flour (like I couldn't), then you make do with all-purpose flour. But even with all-purpose flour, the result is so much better than packaged pasta it is worth the effort.
The amount of water you need to form the dough may change depending on what kind of flour you use and your climate. Use the basic recipe below as your guide and adjust the amounts slightly if necessary.
Yield 4-6 servings
2 cups (240g) durum wheat flour (semolina), bread flour, or all purpose flour (you can do 1 cup durum wheat and 1 cup all purpose)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 cup (5.3 fl oz - 8 fl oz) room temparature water
1. Mix flour and salt into a mound on a clean working counter or large cutting board. Make a well in the middle. Build the well as high as possible to avoid water running out.
2. Add some water in the well and use a dinner fork or fingers to gently mix flour into water without collapsing the walls of the mound. Using your other hand to support the wall of flour helps keep the water from leaking. As you mix, slowly add more water to form soft and sticky dough. It should not be either too dry or too wet. When you touch it, it should stick to your finger only slightly. Keep in mind that as you knead, the dough gets softer. If the dough is too wet, add a little flour. Knead the dough with a periodic dust of flour for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest about 1 hour. If you don't have time, 20 mintues would do.
This is only one of many ways to shape cavatelli.
1. Cut off a small piece of dough, and roll into a long rope, about 1cm (0.4 inch) in diameter.
2. Cut the dough into 1 cm - long pieces.
3. Place the piece in front of you horizontally and rest your index and middle fingers on it. Press the dough as you pull your fingers towards you. As you pull, the pasta rolls to form the cavatelli shape.
4. Place the pasta pieces on a lightly-floured baking sheet or plate.
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water until the cavatelli floats at the top. It takes only a few minutes. Take one and test to ensure it is done and al dente. If it is still too hard for your liking, cook a little longer. Frozen cavatelli will take longer to cook, say 5-7 minutes.
Let them dry on the baking sheet first about an hour or so and freeze them on the tray. This way, they don't stick to each other. After they are frozen, move them into a zipper bag and put them back into the freezer.