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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Homemade Ricotta Cavatelli

   Oh, yeah, I love cavatelli, even the kind you buy in the freezer section of a grocery store, but boy, do I remember my little old Italian grandma making these by hand and having trays of them sitting on kitchen towels drying all around her house when we'd come for a visit. Funny, but until now it never dawned on me that after dinner those trays were nowhere to be found, yet I never actually saw anyone go around the house and collect them. I guess Italian grandmas are magicians, after all!
   After my recent foray into homemade pasta I started telling my husband that I wanted to try my hand at ricotta cavatelli--I already make the ricotta--it was just a natural progression, if you ask me.
   The recipe is quite basic--flour,eggs, ricotta, salt, and the kneading part can be handled by my trusty old KitchenAid® stand mixer.
   The most difficult part is with the shaping of the cavatelli. You know the drill, you have to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes; cavatelli needs to be wrapped in plastic wrap,and the rest period takes place in the refrigerator. After the dough has rested you split it into  quarters, using one quarter at a time, keeping the rest of the dough covered with the plastic wrap and a damp towel; all the standard rules for working with dough.
   You then split the quarter into half so you are working with 1/8 of the dough at a time. Roll the dough into a rope about 1/4 inch in diameter. Cannot tell you how long the rope should be, as it will vary on the accuracy your split, but you want the width go be close to 1/4 inch (some of mine were thicker, but it did not cause a problem.) Then cut the rope into 1 inch pieces, they will look like little pillows. Here's the part that really takes practice: using a putty knife or other flat tool (I switched to a kitchen scraper which worked fabulously), gently drag the tool across the dough from the long edge furthest away from you towards yourself. You only need a drop of pressure, the dough will curl up over the edge of the tool and end up looking like a tiny hot dog roll. Perfect. Toss the pasta onto a sheet pan that has been lightly sprinkled with flour. And continue with all the dough---oh, yes, you are literally making the pasta piece by piece, although I was able to line up about three next to each other and do three at a time, with only minor adjustments at the end. Pretty impressive for my first try. Here's what they looked like:

And here's a closer look:


   Beautiful, don't cha think?
   Home made spaghetti sauce, home made Italian bread, mixed green salad, and maybe a bottle of Chianti to finish this off. Perfect, perfect perfect.
   Talk soon!
    

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