Cavatelli pasta

Cavatelli pasta shapes are typical of the Campania region. At a distance they look like gnocchi; actually they do up close too, but unlike gnocchi they are flour and water creations. I came across them being made at Agriturismo Seliano. The two cooks were busily prepping the supper for 30 odd people in the quiet of an afternoon.

They dished up the cavatelli that evening with diced and fried zucchini and  ricotta. I was enthused: pasta that doesn’t require a pasta machine! I thought I’d have a go when I got home.

The recipe the lovely chef, Eugenia, gave me was:

  • 500g soft (cake) white flour
  • 500g strong white flour (I used ‘Manitoba’ flour which is used for pizzas and bread)
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • approximately 500ml of warm water

Add the egg first and then pour in enough water to make a sticks-together-easily-but-still-firm, not sloppy dough. Leave this, covered with a tea towel, for 30 minutes before pulling off golf ball size chunks and rolling it out with your hands to make a breadstick shape. This is easier said than done, I found. The trick is to roll with flat fingers and move your hands outwards at the same time to stretch out the dough. I suspect one has to start practising when one is 10 years old to get an even shape, not the lumpy worm things I produced.

Having got a breadstick shape, chop it up into dice-sized pieces. Then using two fingers, press and pull each dice to create a curl. I found a thumb roll (like smearing the dough) worked as well.

Make sure you use a well-floured surface.

This amount of flour, of course, makes industrial quantities of cavatelli – sufficient for 10 to 12 people. And it is most definitely a 2-person job. I was starting to feel mildly desperate a third of the way through the dough whether I was going to finish this side of Christmas. You could halve the flour/water quantities and keep the 1 egg – it helps make the dough malleable.

The cavatelli are now in the freezer in anticipation of feeding the crowds over New Year. Pasta freezes very successfully – don’t defrost, just pour straight into boiling, salted water.