Sunday, October 19, 2014

Homemade Pasta Cavatelli (Mom's Version from Bari)

When my Mother recently came for a visit, I was determined to keep her busy.  Not hard to do around here, as we are always dreaming of good food.   She hadn't made Cavatelli in so long, she was willing to give it a try.  Relying on her memories was so easy.  She recalled making these with her Mother.   She reminded me that there was no such thing as measuring, everything was "Al occho" or with your eyes.   So, with great determination, we followed my full proof remedy for bringing dough together.  My 3 cup principle.
3 cups unbleached flour/ 1 plus 1/4 cup of water (give or take a few drops).  1 teaspoons of salt and mix in your standing mixer until your dough comes together in a ball. You an work it by hand or even with a food processor.  Kneading by hand is all my Mother wanted to do.  Imagine  her surprise when the work was done for her by the standing mixer.
You can let it rest about 10 minutes after it all comes together.   Don't wait to long, the dough will become to elastic.   While you wait, cover two baking sheets with Parchment paper and dust with flour.

Shape and dust your ball with flour.   Cover with plastic wrap.

Cut off a small piece at a time and roll either in between your hands or on a floured surface.    Then simply cut 1/4 inch pieces with a knife.
With the back of a fork, press and roll.   The pasta shape will take shape,  My Mother used her fingers (the traditional way), to have the pasta take shape.  Just cut, and shape by pressing down with your middle and forefinger.  Use the very tips of your finger only,  Press and roll.

You can set them in the freezer for later use by layering your trays in your freezer.  When they are solid, simply slip them into freezer bags with small cuttings of parchment.   They will keep up to a month.   I don't know anyone who can stand to keep them in the freezer at all.  They want to use them up in a hurry.

To cook, gently place the Cavatelli in a large pot of  salted, boiling water.   Let cook for about 8-9 minutes or so.   Mine had to cook to the 11 minute mark.  Remember to drain well.  Its going to depend on the condition of your Cavatelli.   If they are thick, they will need a longer cooking time.   Just takes some practice.

I tossed mine with some simple salsa al Pomodoro (Tomato sauce) and some Butter, fried sage leaves and Parmigiano.
Version 2 with Butter and fried Sage leaves

Version 2 Ricotta Style Cavatelli
"Paese che vai usanza che trovi"  Translation,  Countries you visit, customs you will find.   That's the thing about Italy.  You can go two blocks and find completely different cuisine.  To say foods vary Regionally, is almost to vague.  Truth be told, food varies from tiny city to city, somtimes just blocks apart.   Cavatelli is one of those foods. My Mother's version, from the Puglia region, is rather simple.  Here is a second version,  with Ricotta.   I actually liked this version best.   It makes for a much lighter Cavatelli, with a firm but soft texture.    This recipe only works well for Cavatelli or if you are making Penne by hand (That is another recipe posting).
3 cups flour
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta drained
3/4 cup warm water plus up to 1/4 cup additional water if needed
1 teaspoon of salt for your Cavatelli plus one tablespoon for your pasta water.    Since no two flours are the same,its going to take a little practice.
Follow the method above to work the dough into a ball with your stand mixer, then cutting a  piece at a time, roll out and work with your fingers or fork (Add the ricotta to the flour, salt, then water). 
 Just remember, there is nothing fancy to Pasta making, just takes determination.
 Once you relax, it will come together.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me here on this blog or send me a message on facebook at

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Best Chicken Broth (Oven Method)

Who can remember watching those PBS cooking shows here in the States in the late 1970's and early 1980's?  Mom's favorite? Believe it or not, it was the Frugal Gourmet.
Jeff Smith, was an interesting character in his approach to cooking.  I recall how fascinating it was to watch him work his magic on the kitchen.  Although he wasn't Italian, he had a great appreciation for Italian food.  He believed minimizing ingredients helped to maximize flavor.   It was never about several hundred ingredients in a recipe.  It was about the freshness of seasonal ingredients.
Thankfully, I was paying attention. His methods for cooking a deep, rich,  broth was quite inspiring.  Use the same method when making Beef or Veal stock. Oven Roasting gives "Character" to a soup,  great color, flavor and richness.  It's great for using in recipes all week long.  You can freeze it for later to use in risotto's or adding richness to sauces.
Place your cleaned, dried, chicken parts in a roasting pan. Add any vegetables you like to use .   Here is what I used:
Preheat ur oven to 500 low broil.  If u don't have low broil, try 400 broil, but keep a watchful eye on it, u don't want it to blacken. 
4 chicken legs with half the skin removed
I large  red onion
2 large carrots
1 large stalk celery
Bouquet of various fresh herbs tied together
I used parsley and celery leaves
5 small red potatoes
Place in a preheated, 500 degree oven and hit the broil button .  Leave in the oven a good 10 minutes , being  careful not to burn .   Leave until everything is shiny and golden some, not blackened.  Depending on your oven, it might take a little longer .

Place  a large soup pot on the stove.  Drain your chicken and vegetables and place directly in the pot.   Add 1 teaspoon salt.  Add water to cover.  You should cover your ingredients with water by a good 3 inches or so.  Bring to a simmer. After about 2 hours, it's ready.  You will see a deep, rich, dark golden color.  Let cool and store away for future use in your freezer. Reserve your chicken meat to use in a salad for a light supper, tossed with olive oil and garlic and parsley.
I had another motive.  A bowl of chicken soup for lunch!  Who could resist?  Buon appetito!