I like to imagine that if I ever won the lottery that I would immediately move abroad to study culinary arts. I used to think that I would move to Mexico. Perhaps go to culinary school, study the nuances between dishes from different regions, and soak up all the cultural history behind Mexican cooking. But lately, I’ve been drawn more towards Italy. I’ve become obsessed with the different pasta shapes; the history behind the shape, the functionality the shape lends to different sauces, and how I can replicate different shapes easily at home.
I’ve always loved making fresh pasta at home, but lately I’ve been making it more frequently. I think it has something to do with adopting intuitive eating. For those of you not familiar, intuitive eating guides you back to listening to your body for hunger cues. You eat what you crave when you are hungry, and you eat until you are full. There are no bad foods or good foods; you simply feed your body the foods it is craving.
See I used to put all things pasta into the bad food category. It was something that I tried desperately to avoid while dieting. The cycle went something like this: recognize pasta is bad for me, avoid at all costs, crave insatiably, binge, feel guilt, feel shame, rinse, and repeat. Since finding intuitive eating, I’ve been able to actually enjoy food again, especially pasta.
The pasta I made this past weekend is a type of fresh semolina. Semolina is a flour typically made from hard durum wheat. It is more course than regular flour, but it has a wonderful nutty flavor that works very well in pasta. Semolina pasta is going to yield a heartier, more dense pasta; however, it is much more adept with keeping its shape when paired with chunky sauces. When using semolina for pasta making, you should get one ground finely. I normally use Bob’s Red Mill. I shaped the pasta dough into cavatelli. They look like miniature hot dog buns, or in the case of mine, gnocchi. I chose to roll mine out on a gnocchi board, which gave them ridges; however, if you don’t have a gnocchi board you can easily roll them using just your palm.
What are some of your favorite pasta shapes to make or eat? Let me know in the comments below!
Semolina Pasta - Cavatelli
Total Time: 30 minutes to 24 hours
Prep Time: 1 to 1.5 hours
Inactive time: 22.5 hours
Yield: approximately 1 lb 12 ozs
Shelf Life: about 1 week airtight in the fridge; you can also freeze immediately on a sheet pan then store in airtight bag in the freezer for up to 3 months
9 oz all-purpose flour
9 oz semolina flour
1 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Making the Dough
Add both flours and salt to a large mixing bowl; stir to combine.
Add in the water and mix until the dough starts to come together. At this point if there is still unincorporated flour, add in more water 1 tablespoon at a time until the remaining flour sticks to the ball of dough. This dough should be on the drier side, so if a little flour is left in the bottom of the bowl that is fine.
Remove dough from the bowl and knead on the counter for 8 minutes, turning clockwise in quarter turns. If the dough gets sticky, add a small amount of all purpose flour.
At the end of 8 minutes the dough should be smooth and bounces back slightly when touched.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 24 hours to rest.
Shaping the Dough
Unwrap dough from plastic wrap and cut off a small section. The smaller the section, the easier the dough will be to work.
oll the section into a rope roughly ¼ inch wide.
Using a knife or bench scraper, cut the roll into small pillows about ¼ inch long.
If you have a gnocchi board, take one of the pillows and rest it at the top of the board holding it with your thumb. Maintaining even pressure, use your thumb to push down the board and up. Let the cavatelli fall to the counter. If you don’t have a gnocchi board, hold out the palm of your non-dominant hand. Turn your thumb so it is pointing out. Place the pillow at the back of your palm and hold it in place with your thumb. Maintaining even pressure, push your thumb forward and up. For those who would like a visual, check out this YouTube video.
Transfer the finished cavatelli to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and dusted with semolina flour. Try to make sure the cavatelli do not touch each other.
To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 2-5 minutes till al dente. Taste for doneness. If you are not tossing with sauce right away, toss the cavatelli in a little olive oil so they do not stick.