So… last year you did that spring clean in your kitchen and finally ditched the pasta machine that’s been gathering dust in the back of the cupboard. Probably patted yourself on the back then for decluttering… but this year, it’s a different story. You now realise that it’s the missing piece on your road to winning lockdown bingo. The insta-famous banana bread and choc-chip cookies have been made, the sourdough starter is alive, and you’ve participated in more Zoom quizzes than you ever thought possible… but how to tick off ‘make you own pasta’ without that sodding machine?! You will no doubt have a rolling bin or empty wine bottle which will absolutely do the job but requires a bit of hard graft and extra time… so that’s definitely an option, but I’ve got an even better one for you.
Forget about the thinly rolled sheets to be cut into fettuccine or folded in ravioli or tortellini. Stick with something altogether less faff but equally satisfying. Friends, I am going to suggest you make cavatelli. This small rustic shell-like pasta shape is made from semolina flour which is another bonus if you find yourself rationing wheat flour. I managed to easily source it in the international foods section of my Sainsbury’s or you can order it online, doesn’t appear to be in short supply. And the final reason why I think cavatelli (or are they actually called gnochetti… no amount of googling has given me a definitive answer) is worth your time, is that it actually doesn’t take that much time – from flour to finish in around an hour!
Cavatelli – Recipe
For the Pasta Dough:
- 150g semolina flour, also called fine semolina or semola
- 75g water
- Pinch of salt
Make your Pasta Dough:
Put the semolina flour into a large bowl, make a well in the middle and add approximately 50g of the water to start with and slowly bring it together into a shaggy dough.
Gradually add the rest of the water until it comes together into a dough, the knead for approximately 5 minutes until smooth. The dough should be springy and soft but not sticky. Cover and rest for 15-30 minutes.
Make your Cavatelli:
Split the dough in half; leave one half covered in the bowl and place the other half on a lightly floured surface.
Roll the dough into a long rope; aim for a diameter of roughly 1.0cm and keeping it as even as possible along the whole length of dough. Cut the dough into roughly 0.5 – 1.0cm pieces. Some people make them bigger, it’s really all up to personal preference, but we like them little… mainly because we find this dough always has a bit of bite!
Now traditionally, this is where a gnocchi board (small wooden ridged paddle) would come in handy but if you don’t have that, you can improvise as I did with something that has a bit of a ridged pattern. I tried a rice scoop, the back of a zester, and more recently a sushi mat. All worked fine but I preferred the latter as it gave the more traditional shape!
Take a piece of dough and using your thumb (or dough scaper) push and roll it against the ridged surface. Don’t be shy, you want to smush it enough so the dough gets pressed into the surface and curls off as you roll your thumb or dough scraper across. It might take a couple of practices (just re-roll any bits you aren’t quite happy with) but it’s quick, fun, and can be rather therapeutic. Once rolled, transfer the cavatelli to a lightly floured tray to stop them sticking together.
Cook the cavatelli in boiling salted water – they’ll float to the top when ready, then toss through your sauce and serve!
- Water – I suggest you add the last bit of water gradually as sometimes you’ll need slightly more or slightly less, so use your instincts and give it enough to bring together into a soft dough.
- Ratio – this pasta dough is a simple 2:1 ratio of flour to water so you can easily scale up or down the recipe.
- Freezing – put your tray of cavatelli in the freezer for an hour or until they are frozen enough to handle, then transfer to a bag and keep in the freezer. Cook as normal, directly from frozen – they’ll simply take a little longer than if they were fresh.