I’m still working on the great pasta experiment. My schedule has been pretty tough the last few weeks. Turns out I have a rotator cuff impingement that requires physical therapy and I’ve been trying acupuncture to help as well. On top of that, I’m buying the Winter publishing lists. It makes for a busy schedule!
Mr. Bookdwarf and I went to the MFA on Saturday to see the Richard Avedon Fashion exhibit. Being the nerd that I am, I insisted we walk through the book store—it’s one of the best in Boston. Art books, yes, they have lots of those, but they also have a great cookbook selection as well. I ended up buying a copy of The Geometry of Pasta by Jacob Kennedy and Caz Hildebrand as its black and white graphics intrigued me so much. Plus it has actual instructions on how to make various shapes. The concept: pairing pasta shapes with the perfect sauce. It’s alphabetical and each shape gets a lovely black and white graphic representation along with a recipe or two. I like the concept, though the instructions could use some illustration. I decided to give cavatelli a whirl.
Cavatelli are a tubular, rolled pasta. The length can vary depending on what sauce you make to go with it. I opted for ones about one inch in length. Kennedy suggests a dough with nothing but semolina and water. Neat! I used his formula, which was 1 cup plus 3 TBSP of semolina and 1/3 cup of water. I ended up needing a bit more water to get the dough to stick together, about 1 TBSP more. I kneaded it in my large ceramic bowl for about 5 minutes after the flour and water came together before letting it rest for at least a half an hour wrapped in plastic.
On to making the cavatelli! I didn’t need much besides work space, a pastry cutter, a pan for the shaped pasta, and some semolina for dusting.
First you cut the dough into four pieces. Then you cut your first piece into four smaller pieces. Then you roll them out into snakes, at least that’s how I remember doing it with playdoh.
Then cut each snake into pieces about an inch long. You can make the cavatelli shorter or longer if you like.
Take your pastry cutter and scrape the piece of pasta dough toward you. It will smoosh and then curl back on itself.
Here’s an image that explains it better:
At first you wonder what the hell you’ve done wrong, but they’re supposed to look like weird tubes I promise. Once you’ve done the first few, the rest go pretty quickly.
For the sauce, I Mcgyvered Kennedy’s accompanying recipe for Tomato with arugula and white beans. I had some heirloom tomatoes, the arugula, but also some sweet Italian sausage. And wine. Always wine.
First, I sautéd the sausage and took it out of the pan. Next, I added some olive oil, then the garlic, and finally the tomatoes & white wine after a minute or so. The sauce was really chunky since I used large heirloom tomatoes. Mr. Bookdwarf came up with the brilliant idea of using the immersion blender to make a smooth sauce. Brilliant! It’s a lovely shade of orange. I added in the beans, the arugula, and the sausage and let it cook down a bit.
At this time, you should start cooking the pasta. You have to let the formed cavatelli dry a bit before cooking. That way the inside and outside will be done at the same time. Boil a huge pot of salted water, toss in the pasta, and wait. They took about 5 minutes since the pasta is very dense. I saved a bit of the pasta water and added 1 TBSP to the sauce before spooning portions in bowls.
I topped it with the sauce and of course a sprinkle of parmesan. Doesn’t it look delicious?
As always, I play the game of what would I have done differently. I wouldn’t change much here. The pasta was perfect and much easier then I was expecting. The sauce could have used more thickening. If you want to see more pictures of the process, you can see the photo set here. I’m looking forward to working out of The Geometry of Pasta again–I really want to make strozzapretti which translates as Priest Stranglers–but I want it to have more directions for the pasta shaping. It’s still a great resource to have at hand. On to more shapes!