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Extraordinary cavatelli: how to make classic pasta

October 22, 2021

This piece represents the opinion of the author.
Kyra Tan

I love pasta. Maybe not as much as my roommate (shout out to Diego, @lordofpasta on most platforms), but as both an ex-lineman on the football team and a current Italian, pasta is the fuel that keeps me going. It is such a versatile food—from udon to spätzle to pierogi to pho, it’s no wonder why these little wondrous carbohydrates make up such a variety of our comfort foods (and yes, I will argue to the death that pierogi, dumplings, et cetera are all varieties of stuffed pasta).

Like most pastas, there aren’t that many ingredients involved in making cavatelli. All you need is a cup of all-purpose flour, a cup of semolina flour, two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, one-half of a teaspoon of fine salt and three-fourths of a cup of warm water. If you kept the flour and oil from my last column, this should be very cost effective for you, but if you didn’t, then a five-pound bag of all-purpose flour will cost you as little as $1.22 at Walmart and $2.49 at Hannaford. It depends on the brand, but you can get olive oil for $6.49 and $5.78 at both retailers, respectively. The semolina flour costs less in terms of per-unit weight at Hannaford, with a price of $2.99 for a little over a pound. The salt you can get from stealing a couple extra bags of plastic utensils from Thorne. The reason why you need the semolina flour is because of its higher protein content. The higher the protein content, the better the dough will form and the less starchy the pasta will be once it’s done cooking.

You can definitely do it with just all-purpose flour, but it will result in very starchy pasta—however, that might be great if you’re looking to smother it in sauce!

First, take a mixing bowl and add both of the flours and the salt. Whisk them together until it’s all homogeneous. Make a well in the middle of the mixture, almost like the mouth of a volcano. Add the oil to the center, and then start adding the water a little bit at a time, while slowly whisking in the flour from the center of the well outwards.

You’ll know it’s ready when the dough starts to resemble a slightly stickier Play-Doh. Place the dough on a flour-dusted cutting board and knead it five to ten times. Form it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

While you are waiting, lightly dust another workspace (I would suggest a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil) with flour. This will be for the fully formed cavatelli pieces. After the time is up, cut the dough into eighths. Keep all of your unused dough wrapped up. Going back to a lightly floured cutting board, roll the dough out with your hands as if you were making snakes with Play-Doh so that the diameter of each snake is around a centimeter. Cut the dough with a sharp, non-serrated knife into one inch pieces.

To form the cavatelli into their famous shape, dust two of your fingers lightly in flour and press down the middle of each piece of dough, dragging them toward yourself to give them a shell-like look. Repeat this process with every piece of dough, placing the formed pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

Now, get a pot of water boiling. Once it’s at a boil, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the water so that the cavatelli won’t stick together. Throw your pasta in, and let it cook for anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes. If you decided to make them smaller, it might take as little as five. They should be gummy but not doughy, which lets you know that they’re done.

This recipe makes enough for two reasonable adult portions, but if you are unreasonable like me, you might want to double the recipe. If you made the original quantity, then congratulations! Excluding the cost of labor, you just made your own pasta for $0.67 per portion.

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