It’s weird the way I discovered ricotta cavatelli pasta. I might have gone an entire lifetime without these chewy, cheesy marvels that I now make regularly.
Several years ago, MauiJim and I were nestled in the small bar of Chef Ken Oringer's fabulous Clio restaurant in Boston (now closed), trying to be as invisible as possible (what with the camera and all).
As we noshed our way through appetizers and desserts, clicking a few no flash pictures along the way, the cool looking guy sitting to my left leaned over and asked how we were enjoying the food.
He turned out to be non-other than Chef Oringer himself. And one of the friends he was chatting with that night was Chef Ron Suhanosky of Sfoglia restaurant on Nantucket. Talk about serendipity!
We talked about the Boston food scene for a while and who in Boston was doing the best winter squash soup. And Chef Suhanosky made us promise that we would make it to Nantucket on our next visit. But before we could do that, his Pasta Sfoglia cookbook debuted, and of course I grabbed a copy.
I love this cookbook precisely because it's not a tome to traditional Italian pasta. I have plenty of classic tomes on Italian pasta already. Instead, the dishes are fresh, original, and inspired (strawberries and spaghetti anyone?)—exactly the sort of cook and dishes I love to learn from.
The photo in Pasta Sfoglia of a cavatelli maker in action and corresponding recipe for ricotta cavatelli pasta were the inspiration for this post. I had never heard of cavatelli pasta.
After a bit of research, I ordered the CucinaPro 530 Cavatelli Maker from Amazon and then checked the fridge to make sure I had whole milk ricotta. The other ingredient that you might not have in the pantry is rice flour, which is available in most grocery stores. It makes the pasta extra tender and is also great for keeping the cavatelli from sticking to the maker or to each other.
You’ll find a myriad of recipes for cavatelli pasta on the web. Some are simply regular pasta dough (flour, egg, salt), some include baking powder (a new twist to me), and some, like the recipe below, include ricotta, similar to ricotta gnocchi but denser and chewier.
Tips for Using the CucinaPro 530 Cavatelli Maker
You'll see a lot of reviews for the CucinaPro 530 cavatelli maker on Amazon and sorry to say, they are not all favorable. It’s a modestly priced machine though (around $35) and for the money, you might choose to tolerate its less than stellar engineering, which results in almost every other cavatelli coming out of the machine as a “slug” rather than the beautifully curved shape you want. (You simply gather up the slugs, reroll, and put through the machine again.) To get acceptable results, you must perfect your dough and get used to the idiosyncrasies of the machine. Here are a few tips.
- Your new cavatelli maker will come preassembled, so no worries there. Simply remove it from the box, wipe it clean with a soft cloth or brush (don’t use water), and clamp it securely to a table or counter top that is no deeper than 1¼ inch.
- Now notice that the hand crack has been attached in the wrong position for packing. It won’t rotate in this position. Simply unscrew the wing nut that holds the hand crank in place and turn the crank around. You should now be able to rotate it full circle.
- The wing nut will loosen itself periodically, no matter how tightly you secure it, so be prepared to retighten it as needed, preferably with a small wrench.
- Overly-wet cavatelli pasta dough is the biggest cause of problems. No amount of flour dusting after the dough is made will correct a too-wet dough. Even with a mountain of flour on the outside of a too-wet dough, the rollers will cut into the wet interior and the dough will stick.
- Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes covered before rolling it.
- Roll the dough to a thickness of about ⅜-inch and cut strips ½-inch to ¾-inch wide. Or simply roll pieces of dough to a long rope about ½-inch in diameter and then flatten the rope with your hand.
- Flour each strip lightly with rice flour before rolling. If there's too much flour on the outside of the dough strips, the rollers won't grab the pasta.
- Pinch one end of a strip flat before inserting it into the machine rollers.
- Turn the handle with one hand while guiding the strip with the other hand.
- Don't crank the handle too fast, as the dough will stick to the machine and not form properly.
- If the dough sticks to the cavatelli maker, it is too wet. Add more all-purpose flour and knead, or allow strips to dry out a bit.
- After using the cavatelli maker, let it air dry, and then use a stiff brush to remove any remaining flour or dried dough. Never immerse the cavatelli maker in water.
- Occasionally wipe the wooden rollers with mineral oil, which keeps the rollers from absorbing moisture and odors.
But of course you can also shape cavatelli pasta by hand, which I taught my three-year-old granddaughter, Miss Lillian, to do quite respectably and happily, so you know it’s easy and fun. The only difference in the way I do it and the description on the link above is that I shaped each piece on an inexpensive grooved gnocchi board to get a grooved surface. It took me 45 minutes to leisurely shape the cavatelli pasta. Toward the end, my speed had tripled, so practice is key.
With fresh cavatelli pasta in the fridge or freezer, a fabulous meal is only minutes away. Stay tuned for Ricotta Cavatelli with Toasted Walnuts, Slivered Garlic & Baby Greens.
Homemade Ricotta Cavatelli Pasta
Homemade ricotta cavatelli is a definite treat, and luckily it isn’t difficult to make. You can shape the pasta by hand if you like, but it’s faster to shape it with a hand-cranked cavatelli maker.
Storage Note If you don’t plan to use the pasta within a day or so, spread it out on cookie sheets, freeze, and then put into freezer bags and keep frozen for up to a month. No need to defrost before boiling.
2½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (11¼ ounces)
1 cup white rice flour (5½ ounces)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 pound (2 cups) whole milk ricotta, preferably drained (cow’s or sheep’s milk ricotta)
2 large eggs
unbleached all-purpose flour in a shaker
rice flour in a shaker or fine mesh sieve
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, rice flour, and salt.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the ricotta and eggs. Stir into the flour mixture to form a shaggy mass.
- Turn out onto a floured countertop and knead for 2-3 minutes, adding additional all-purpose flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. If you are using a cavatelli maker to shape the pasta, the dough cannot be at all damp, as it will clog the machine. If you are hand shaping the cavatelli, the dough can be softer but should still not stick to your hands as you are shaping it.
- Using the fingertips of both hands, roll the dough to about 20-inches in length. Cut into ten 2-inch lengths, and then roll each of these to about 18 inches in length and ½-inch in diameter. If you are using a cavatelli maker, flatten each rope to ¼-inch with your fingertips and coat generously with rice flour to keep them from sticking to the machine.
- Set up the cavatelli maker on a clean countertop and dust the countertop and wheels of the machine with rice flour.
- Using Tips for Using the CucinaPro 530 Cavatelli Maker above, shape the cavatelli.
- Or shape them by hand. Cut the ½-inch diameter ropes into ¼-inch disks about the size of a dime. Dust the countertop and the pasta with rice flour. Using the dull side of a butter knife, position the edge against the top horizontal edge of a disk, and press into it while rolling the disk toward you. As you try this the first few times, adjust your pressure on the knife so that the disk rolls easily against the counter and forms a hollow, curved shape. I like to roll mine on a grooved gnocchi board to give the pasta a beautifully textured surface, but it you don’t have a gnocchi board, no worries.
- As you shape the cavatelli, arrange them on cookie sheets that are dusted with rice flour. You can leave them at room temperature for an hour or so, cover and refrigerate for up to a day, or freeze them for up to a month. After freezing them on cookie sheets, separate them, and put into freezer bags for longer storage.
Makes about 2¼ pounds fresh pasta.
More Fabulous Pasta, Gnocchi & Spaetzle Recipes from LunaCafe
- LunaCafe OtherWorldly Mac & Cheese
- Old World Spaetzle: The New Pasta?
- Pasta Carbonara Perfecta Mundo
- Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Garlic Sage Butter
- Spinach & Egg Fettuccini with Wild Mushrooms & Pancetta (Straw & Hay)
- Strozzapreti Pasta with Fava Bean Greens Pesto, Spicy Italian Sausage & Toasted Walnuts
- Strozzapreti Pasta with Spicy Italian Sausage, Broccolini & Garlic Crema
- Spaetzle, Wild Mushroom & Broccoli Rabb with Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
- World Famous Green Chile Mac & Cheese
Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- Artisanal Pasta Tools: The Cavatelli Maker (video)
- Cuisinivity: Homemade Cavatelli
- Domestic Fits: Pasta Cavatelli: Homemade Pasta Without a Pasta Machine
- Electric Cavatelli Maker in Progress (video)
- How to Make Ricotta Cavatelli Pasta (video)
- Olivia Cooking: Making Cavatelli Pasta at Home (video)
Copyright 2013 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.