I love pasta – making it, eating it, all of it. The therapeutic act of kneading the dough balances me, the comfort of eating it soothes me. If I’ve had a bad day, sit me down with a steaming bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine and I could forget all about it.
I’ve been making homemade pasta since before culinary school. I’ll never forget the discovery of it – to me, homemade pasta was always out of reach. It was something that only trained chefs or Italian grandmothers had any business making. When I tried my hand at it for the first time and was rewarded with delicate, golden strands that instantly brought me back to Tuscan candle-lit dinners, I couldn’t believe it. Since then, I haven’t stopped experimenting and I’ve learned that, believe it or not, making pasta is incredibly intuitive. Does your dough feel dry? Add liquid. Does it feel too wet? Add flour. And, really no matter what you do, as long as you end up with a cohesive dough, you will have delicious pasta.
My go-tos are typically spaghetti or fettuccini (mostly because those are the two settings on my pasta roller). But lately, I’ve taken to forming more unique shapes – fusilli, pici, cavatelli, orecchiette (though I haven’t quite mastered that one yet). The great thing about shapes is that (for many), you can skip rolling the dough, which is the most labor-intensive part of making pasta if you don’t have a roller. So, for all of you kitchen minimalists out there – do you have a counter? a knife? Great. You can make this cavatelli.
If you aren’t familiar with them, cavatelli resemble slightly elongated little shells. I’ve heard them referred to as the “hot dog bun” of pasta before, which is pretty accurate. They are a totally unfussy and quick shape to make and their process is relatively easy to get the hang of. Once cooked, they taste light and airy – almost like a pasta-form of gnocchi in a way – and their shell-like shape makes the perfect vessel for catching sauce.
The bulk of this recipe is for the actual pasta dough, though I served this cavatelli last night with a sage-infused cream sauce that was pure heaven so I wrote up a quick recipe for you. If you’re dairy-free, or just not a cream sauce lover, feel free to serve your pasta with any sauce of your choosing. Enjoy.
hand-rolled cavatelli pasta
with sage cream sauce
for the pasta:
2 cups (250g) all-purpose or 00 flour, plus more if needed (I highly suggest weighing your flour)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon salt
To prepare the pasta dough: add the flour to a large work surface and form a mound. Make a well in the center of the mound and add the eggs, olive oil, and salt into the center of the well. Use a fork to first gently beat the wet ingredients and then slowly incorporate the flour into the wet mixture, starting with the inner edges and working outward, until a shaggy, sticky dough starts to form. At this point, knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, until completely smooth. Your dough should be dry enough that it does not stick to your work surface, but not so dry that it doesn’t form a nice, smooth dough. If you find your dough to be too dry, add an extra teaspoon of olive oil. If your dough is too wet, you can also add more flour, just a sprinkling at a time. Once your dough is smooth, wrap it tightly in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
To form the cavatelli: divide the dough into small pieces. Working with one piece at a time (and rewrapping the pieces you aren’t working with to keep them from drying out), roll it into an approximate ½-inch-thick rope. Cut the rope into small pieces (about ¼ – ½-inch-thick). Using a pairing knife or butter knife, drag the sharp side of the blade sideways across the first piece of dough, using even pressure. The dough should stretch and then roll back into itself like a tightly rolled shell. Place on a semolina-dusted surface and repeat with the remaining dough. If you missed my Instagram story how-to (or even if you didn’t), Heidi of 101 Cookbooks recently shared a bunch of videos of Italian women making pasta, including this video of an amazing Puglian woman making hand-rolled cavatelli with a butter knife. She starts making the pasta around 1:55 of the video. Don’t feel badly if you aren’t as fast as her ; )
To cook: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cavatelli and cook until al dente (just taste them to see if they’re done – the cook time will vary greatly depending on the size and thickness of your cavatelli). Mine took 10 – 12 minutes.
for the sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh bay leaves (or 1 dried)
8 leaves fresh sage
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry rose or white wine
1 ½ cups cream
¼ cup grated parmesan
In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and sage. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and soft but not browned, about 5 – 6 minutes. Add the wine and 2 cups water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low until there is only about ½ cup of liquid left, about 30 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and push on the solids to release any broth. Discard the solids and return the broth to the pot. Add the cream and parmesan and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat until the mixture is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
Add the cooked cavatelli to the warm cream sauce and toss. Divide the pasta and sauce between bowls and top each with grated parmesan cheese and black pepper, if desired.