Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nana's Ricotta Cavatelli

I'm back. It was a long few weeks with no access to this little blog space and I missed it more than I thought I would.  When you rely on technology, sometimes it lets you down.  It happens and I accept that.  In the meantime, I've been cooking up a storm, taking pics, getting my garden ready for winter veggies, and focusing my time on my kids and my Etsy business.  And now thanks to the tech-lovin' husband of a friend, I'm up and running again.

As I was browsing through my almost 500 photographs trying to choose which one to write about first, one shot definitely stuck out at me.  It wasn't the best shot I had taken, but probably the most meaningful to me, so I thought I should start from there.  It's my three year old son's hands rolling out a piece of home made pasta the same way my grandmother taught me when I was little.

These little pastas are probably my favorite thing in the whole wide world.  I suppose for many reasons.  First and foremost, because they are tasty little pillows of deliciousness.  But also because they connect me to my family. I can remember standing next to Nana and using my little fingers to roll bits of dough across the wooden board.  When there was a big family dinner, she'd break out the hand-cranked machine and I'd help her feed the snake of dough between the rollers as little cavatelli shot out of the other end.  Seriously fun stuff for a little kid.  And now, seeing my son's hands repeat the same learning as my own did many years ago, it really drives home the point that oftentimes it's not the end result that counts but what you experience to get there.  And more importantly, who you share that experience with.
The recipe is simple.  Just a few ingredients lovingly put together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.  It's one of the first recipes I wrote in a little notebook given to me as I was planning my wedding and that I still pull out to jot down family recipes and my own ideas today.

Nana's Ricotta Cavatelli
Serves 3-4 people, but the recipe can easily be multiplied.
For a printable recipe, click here.

These cavatelli are very much like a gnocchi, only made with ricotta instead of potato.  You don't have to roll them out on the pasta board if you don't want to- simply cut the pasta into 1 inch pieces.  I think rolling them gives them a less chewy (i.e. more pleasing) texture and the little scoop you create is the perfect hiding spot for sauces.  But that's up to you.  I found my wooden boards at specialty kitchen shops, but you can also use the tines of a fork for rolling the cavatelli.  Lastly, if you can get your hands on some semolina flour the taste of the pasta will be all that much more interesting. 

1 lb. whole milk ricotta
1 lb. unbleached all-purpose flour, about 3 cups (you can use half all-purpose and half semolina flour as well)
1 egg

In a large bowl or on a clean counter, mix  2 1/2 cups of the flour, the ricotta and egg together with your hands.  Add more flour as needed.  You may not need all of the flour depending on how wet your ricotta is.  I was using very well drained home made ricotta, so I didn't need as much.  You are looking to create a smooth, not sticky dough. But you also don't want it to be dry.  You will know you have enough flour when the dough just comes together and is no longer sticky.

Knead the dough a few times on a floured work surface.  Cut it into 8-10 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a log with a diameter of about an inch.  Cut the log into 1 inch pieces.  If using the wooden shaping board, roll each piece across the length of the board with your thumb, pushing down slightly to create a curved, shell-shaped piece of pasta. Transfer the pasta to a lightly floured baking sheet.

At this point you can cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate the pasta or freeze it.  If you freeze it, once the pasta is completely frozen, transfer it to a freezer bag.  It will keep for several months.  If cooking right away, place in a large pot of boiling, salted water.  The pasta is ready when it floats, about 3 minutes.  It is wonderful with a simple tomato sauce and some grated pecorino romano cheese.


  1. This is one of those precious reasons why I spend a lot of my time hunting around to find amazing recipes. This sort of recipe is a true gem. Thank you SO much for sharing it with us all. I am tucking it away in my recipe folder and will be making it very soon. Thank you for sharing your nana with the world :)

    1. My pleasure! And I'm sure Nana would be pleased to know you enjoyed the recipe.