Shaping Cavatelli

Shaping Cavatelli
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These are our first attempts, and they look great! Aren’t we modest?

Yesterday’s blueberry galette used an egg wash around the edges to make the crust brown nicely and the sugar stick. Some people will use milk, but we find that egg really works best. The downside is that you only use a little bit of an egg, leaving you with a small bowl of beaten egg. If you’re hungry, you can just cook it up into a small omelette or a bit of scrambled egg, but, if not, what to do?

As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, we made up a batch of pasta dough, wrapped it in plastic, and placed it in the refrigerator to shape today. Now, we could just make linguine by running it through our pasta machine, but we thought that we’d try our hand at making cavatelli. We saw the technique on this great video and just had to try it, figuring that, if it works, we’ll have a cool little pasta shape we can make just about anywhere. Plus, you can make this shape, too. No pasta machine needed.

You’ll need:

  • Batch of fresh pasta dough, rested and ready to roll.
  • Gnocchi board, or other ridged surface, such as a sushi mat (optional)
  • Knife or bench scraper

This shape is super easy to make, so you can probably get everyone making it, and you’ll be able to shape several pounds of pasta in a few minutes — we were able to shape a half-pound of dough in under 10 minutes. Plus, it looks as if a professional made it. Really.

Shaping cavatelli consists of three simple steps: Make ropes or snakes from the pasta dough. Cut the snakes into little pillows. Roll the pillows under your thumb to shape.

cutting pasta dough
Cut off a chunk of dough about a half-inch wide. It should be a small enough amount so it’s easy to work.

Make snakes. Cut off a chunk of dough about 1/2-inch wide and simply roll it out on the counter with the palms of your hands to form a rope of dough about 1/4-inch in diameter. Yep, roll it out just the way you did as a child, using clay to make a coil pot. See, so simple a child can help.

making a rope of pasta dough
Roll out the dough to form a snake. If you forgot how, ask a child to show you.
pasta dough
When the rope of dough is cut into half-inch pieces, it looks like little pillows

Make pillows. Use a knife or a bench scraper to cut the rope into pieces about 1/2-inch long. The pressure of the knife will squeeze the edges out a bit, and the center will puff up, making the pieces look like little pillows. If you use a bench scraper, it doesn’t have a sharp edge, so, once again, you can put your child to work.

pasta dough
If you have a ridged board or sushi mat, or, really, anything with ridges, place a pillow of dough on it.

Roll. This looks far trickier than it is. Place a pillow of dough on your ridged surface, and, using your thumb, press down and roll the piece of dough away from you. You want to press down fairly hard so the pasta dough gets pressed out to about 1/8-inch thick and the ridges form. If you don’t have a ridged surface, you can just use the counter and you’ll have smooth cavatelli. They’ll taste just as good. Once shaped, place on a clean towel on a rack until you’re ready to boil them. We did a lot of photos so you can see the whole process.

rolling cavatelli
Then press down with your thumb, and … well, see the next photo.
rolling cavatelli
… slowly roll the pasta dough away from you to … see next photo
Make a cavatelli. Cool huh?
… make a cavatelli. Cool huh?
shaping smooth cavatelli
You can also make smooth cavatelli by simply rolling the dough on the counter
Note that, when shaped, the pasta is hollow in the middle, like a cava, or cave; hence, the name.
It’s quick work to make a lot of cavatelli.

Unlike the trofie we made earlier in the week, this is a really, really easy shape, and, when they’re finished, it looks as if a professional pasta maker ran up these babies. Since they’re so easy, it took about 10 minutes to shape a half-pound of dough, even though we were stopping to take pictures. We think that by focusing on the task at hand, a person could shape half a pound of dough in about 5 minutes. Think about that. It takes 10 minutes to mix and knead the pasta dough, 30 minutes to rest, 5 minutes to shape, and 4 minutes to boil. That means it’s about 19 minutes of real work (you’re not doing anything while the dough’s resting) to get fresh home-scratched pasta on the table, which is just a few minutes longer than with the boxed stuff at the store. And, we can assure you, fresh pasta is far, far better than dried (or even those sealed packets of “fresh” pasta, which might have sat on the shelves for months — don’t believe us, check the expiration dates). Fives all around for a shape that even kids can make.

Worth the trouble?

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