One of the best things about having our mill in the back of Pane Bianco is learning from Chef Robbie. Robbie is a walking Larousse Gastronomique, but you wouldn't know it because he likes cooking more than talking about cooking. But if you ever need to identify the odd chili pepper or learn how to cook a strange bean or make pickles that taste like your grandma's-- you should ask Robbie. He cooks as if he's remembering a past life as an Italian Nonna; he knows how things are supposed to be. And that's why the hand-pulled mozzarella sandwich at Pane Bianco is consistently the most delightful thing your'll ever eat.
Robbie taught me how to make these cavatelli. How to transform a bit of semolina and '00' flour into beautiful spirals with a simple wooden board. How to keep them light and fluffy. And how to make sure the don't get too thick and chewy. His advice for perfect cavatelli: "Use your whole thumb."
And if you attempt to make your own hand rolled cavatelli, this will be the best piece of advice you've ever heard.
Since Robbie's not here to teach us all how to make the perfect cavatelli, here are detailed instructions and pictures of the process.
- Place your small square of dough at the middle-top of the cavatelli board, then use your thumb to press the dough into the board.
- Still pressing your thumb into the board, smear the dough away from the handle. The dough should start to curl up behind your thumb.
- To finish, help the cavatelli roll over on itself, and knock it off the end of the board.
It will take a few tries to get the hang of it. Mistakes can easily be re-incorporated back into the snake and formed again.
Hand Rolled Cavatelli
3 cups Heritage Pasta Flour
1 cup + 5 Tablespoons warm water
- Measure out the Pasta Flour into a big bowl. Make a indentation in the middle of the flour to hold the water. Pour the water into this indentation and use a fork to slowly incorporate the flour into the pool of water. It will begin to form a ball of dough. Put the dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead vigorously for 5-10 minutes. It should be a smooth ball when you are finished.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and set aside at room temperature to rest for 30 mins - 1 hour.
- Unwrap the rested dough, cut it into 6 sections. Work with one section at a time keeping the rest under the plastic so it doesn't dry out. Shape the dough into a long skinny snake. Using a dough scraper or knife cut the dough-snake into 1 inch sections.
- One-by-one shape the 1 inch sections into cavatelli using the detailed instructions and pictures above. Repeat the process with the remaining 5 sections of dough.
- When you have a great big pile of cavatelli throw them into a well-salted pot of boiling water and cook for 3-5 minutes (divide into 2 or 3 batches if your pot is small).
Cavatelli are great with any red of white sauce. But I love eating them right out of the water, with a drizzle of good olive oil, cracked pepper and a hefty garnish of Parmesan cheese.
+ My dough is too tough? Add another tablespoon water and knead for another 5 minutes.
+ My cavatelli sticking to the board? Dust your cavatelli board with pasta flour.
+ My cavatelli are dry in the middle after boiling them? They might be too thick. Try boiling them a few minutes longer.