Last week-end, I was in the mood to have cavatelli. I would like to share with you my families’ method of making this Homemade Cavatelli Pasta Dough Recipe. Don’t get me wrong, I love the dough attachment of my stand mixer, but occasionally, when I have the time, I love to make cavatelli the “old-fashioned way”.
I know what you are thinking… who’s got the time for this? Let me assure you that there is something therapeutic about cutting and rolling and shaping dough. It brings back so many wonderful memories of my mom.
And so, last weekend, I made the time to make this cavatelli pasta recipe. Feel free to use your stand mixer with the hook attachment, but there is something so special about kneading dough and making pasta from scratch…yes, I agree it is very labor-intensive.
But you can’t deny that sense of satisfaction that comes from making your own pasta! And this is a very forgiving dough, so let’s get started!
What do you need to make this Cavatelli Pasta Dough Recipe:
- Flour. All-purpose flour, bread or semolina flour are all options. I use all-purpose flour.
- Water. A simple ingredient.
- Salt. Just a teaspoon!
That’s it! Are you surprised to learn that something so delicious is made with just these ingredients!
Making the cavatelli dough
It all starts with a mound of flour. Shape the mound of flour into a well on your wooden board. Would you believe it if I told you that my grandmother and my Mom would make their cavatelli (and taralli and this Italian sweet ricotta Easter pie, among other goodies!) on a wooden board that measured 3 x 5 feet! Believe me when I tell you that as kids, this was our playdough…edible play-dough.
Okay, back to the well…slowly pour the room temperature water in the middle of the well and with a fork, slowly incorporate the flour. Keep beating the flour and incorporating the water a little bit at a time. My grandmother would do this with her hands. It would get a little messy!
Continue to slowly add the water while mixing. I start the whole process with a fork, followed by a dough scraper (stainless steel or plastic works well). During this process, make sure the water does not run out from the inside of your “flour” well.
You can experiment with different types of flours until you achieve the cavatelli you like. You can use semolina, bread or even all-purpose flour. The cavatelli I was grew up with was made with bread or all-purpose flour.
I will usually add about 1 and 1/2 cups of water to 4 cups of flour. What you’re going for is a soft dough. I find that using a dough scraper facilitates the combining of the flour and the water…until magically…this mess…
…develops into one ball of dough. At this stage, it becomes a lot easier to knead. Keep kneading for about ten minutes or so. You know you’re done when you end up with a clean board and clean hands…and just like that, the sticky mess is no more.
Wrap the cavatelli dough in cling wrap and place a tea towel over the top. Allow to rest for about one hour at room temperature. This resting period allows the gluten in the dough to relax. As a result, it will be easier to roll out the dough.
Now we can start shaping the cavatelli!
Shaping the cavatelli pasta dough
Uncover the cling wrap and place it on a floured wooden board. With a knife or dough scraper, cut your beautiful ball of dough in quarters. Make sure to re-wrap the cavatelli dough that you are not working with to prevent it from drying out.
It never ceases to amaze me that with only flour and water, you can make this cavatelli recipe! Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is the different variations in which you can shape your cavatelli. My mom (and grandmother) would roll out the one large piece of dough (on their wooden board measuring 3 x 5 feet) and wrap it around the rolling pin (which would measure 4 feet to keep in line with the board, of course). We are talking about mass production here… I wrapped up my little quarter piece of dough just to show you how they did it.
And so this pasta dough would be rolled and stretched. No pasta rollers back then…everything was done manually. Since we are not working with industrial measurements, I will just roll out my dough to about 1/8 -1/4 of an inch thick. (There are some families that roll their piece of dough in a log and cut off pieces that way).
Feel free to use your pasta roller, if you have one. Then you want to cut the dough into 3/4 inch strips. And each strip in 1/4-1/2 inch little pieces. You can really cut them any length you want. There are some families that will form their cavatelli with 2 fingers, some will use a wooden board which has groves in it and drag their pasta up against the board, I have seen some use a knife in order to get a little indentation.
I was brought up to use the index finger and apply gentle pressure on the dough, dragging it toward you. There should be a slight curl formed. The word cavatelli is derived from the word cavato which means “carved”. Essentially, you are carving the dough.
Sometimes, I will use my dough scraper to cut little pieces of dough and then I use my thumb to make the cavatelli shape. You can use one finger, two fingers, a knife, a spoon, or even a grooved wooden board to give your cavatelli a special shape. As they say, “all roads lead to Rome”. I would encourage you to try out this recipe, and I guarantee you’ll easily develop your own method of making these cavatelli. Here’s the video I made for you to see how easy this is:
It’s important to realize that homemade pasta is rustic looking, that is not mechanically produced, as a result, there will be imperfections. Therein lies the beauty.
As you are making your cavatelli, place them on a baking sheet that has been dusted with flour in a single layer. The dough is soft and they will stick together if they are not separated, so make sure they don’t touch each other.
Continue until all the dough has been formed into cavatelli. Allow to air dry for at least 30 minutes.
If using immediately, drop the cavatelli in a large pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes. The cavatelli are done when they float to the top. (Try to shake off as much as the flour as possible before boiling them). Taste to make sure they are al dente.
If freezing, place the tray of cavatelli in the freezer and once frozen, place in a plastic bag in the freezer. These frozen cavatelli will take about 6 minutes to cook, no need to thaw. Always taste them to make sure they are cooked to your liking.
What to serve with homemade cavatelli?
A simple pasta dish can be made by combining your favorite pasta sauce with this pasta dough recipe. Traditionally, the best sauces for cavatelli recipes are broccoli rabe, broccoli and tomato ricotta.
This pasta dough recipe is one that I grew up with. My grandmother and mom would make these gavadeel at least once a month, where it would be combined with ricotta and tomato sauce. I guess that is why I still enjoy making and eating this pasta. It brings me right back to my childhood, where it was “normal” to make your own pasta and to get the kids involved in the process.
Making cavatelli truly is a great way to get the younger kids involved in cooking. You would be amazed at how much kids enjoy this simple activity of making cavatelli. Flour and water…the original playdough!
If ever you have a little bit of time, you can make this easy homemade pasta dough recipe and enjoy simple, rustic casalinga-style cavatelli.
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Ciao for now,
★★★★★ If you have made this pasta dough recipe, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!
Homemade Cavatelli Pasta Dough Recipe
- 4 cups all-purpose flour sifted
- 1½ cups water room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- extra flour for rolling
- Place the sifted flour on a wooden board and make a well in the center.
- Add the water and the salt in the center of the well.
- With a fork, start incorporating the flour and the water until you get a thick batter. Pull in the flour from the bottom of the well.
- With the help of a dough scraper, incorporate the rest of the flour (it may appear to you that there isn't enough water...just keep kneading...magically everything comes together).
- Knead for about 8-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough feels sticky, add a little bit of flour. If, on the other hand, the dough feels dry, sprinkle a few drops of water over the dough and continue kneading.
- Wrap dough in cling wrap and let it rest for about one hour at room temperature (I will usually place a tea towel over the top).
- Cut the dough into 4 pieces.
- Roll out each piece of dough to approximately ¼ inch thick. Make sure your board and rolling pin are floured.
- Cut the into ¾ - 1 inch strips.
- Cut each strip into 1/4 - 1/2 inch rectangular pieces.
- Using the index finger, apply a gentle pressure on the dough, dragging it toward you. There should be a slight curl that forms.
- Place cavatelli on large baking sheets that have been dusted with flour. Place the cavatelli in a single layer and not touching one another.
- Continue until all the dough has been formed into cavatelli.
- Allow to air dry for at least 30 minutes.
- If using immediately, drop in a large pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes. The cavatelli are done when they float to the top. (Try to shake off as much as the flour as possible before boiling them). Taste to make sure they are cooked to your liking.
- If freezing, place the tray of cavatelli in the freezer and once frozen, place in plastic bag in the freezer. Can be cooked frozen. (Should take 6-8 minutes to cook. Once they rise to the top, they should be done. Taste to make sure they are cookedto your liking).
- Serve with your favorite sauce.