Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ricotta Cavatelli

I'm mildly obsessed with all kinds of dumplings. Whether they are the kind of dumplings that feature a filling enveloped in a tender wrapper, or simply small nuggets of poached dough finished with sauce.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Pasta by Hand by Jenn Louis. If you are a fan of gnocchi, this book is definitely for you. It expands upon the typical gnocchi styles one might consider the norm (potato, ricotta, etc), and really extends to so many other hand-shaped pasta variations.

I've tried several recipes from the book, and have enjoyed them all tremendously. I'm a huge fan of the ricotta cavatelli for its simplicity and versatility. It can be served with just about any sauce, it's a bit less delicate than some of its softer counterparts, and it boasts a slightly chewy, al dente texture that is a big plus.

This recipe makes a lot of cavatelli. Portion sizes for gnocchi are a bit smaller than you'd anticipate because they can be quite filling, but use your own preference in doling it out to your friends and family. I feel the intended serving size of 8 for the recipe is pretty fair, but you could spread it out a bit more heartily and serve 6 instead.

When I first made this ricotta cavatelli, I cooked half of it and served it with a homemade braised rabbit ragu and arugula. This was a very rich and filling way to serve it. It would probably be more appropriate for cooler months, but we still enjoyed it regardless.

I froze the rest of the cavatelli, and then cooked off individual portions periodically. Most recently, I had some leftover puttanesca sauce made with pureed tomatoes, anchovy, chili flakes, capers, onions, garlic, and kalamata olives. I quickly boiled the last couple portions of ricotta cavatelli from the freezer and finished them in this sauce. It was beautiful and delectable. Another hit!

You really can't go wrong with this cavatelli recipe. I just finished up the last of my freezer stash, but I will definitely make more in the future.

Ricotta Cavatelli
Serves 8
(From Pasta by Hand)

500 g (3 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
480 g (2 cups) whole-milk ricotta cheese, homemade or store-bought
55 g (1/4 cup) whole milk
1 egg
Sauce of your choice

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine the flour, salt, ricotta, milk, and egg. Knead with your hands or on medium speed for 10 minutes, until fully combined and the dough is mostly smooth. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with flour. Cut off a chunk of dough about the width of two fingers and leave the rest covered with plastic wrap. On a lightly floured work surface, use your hands to roll the chunk into a log about 1/2 in (12 mm) in diameter. Do not incorporate too much more flour into the dough, adding just enough so the dough does not stick to the surface. Cut the log into 1/2- to 1-in (12-mm to 2.5-cm) pieces. With the side of your thumb, gently push each piece against a gnocchi board or the back of the tines of a fork, rolling and flicking the dough to make a curled shape with an indentation on one side and a ridged surface on the other. Put the cavatelli on the prepared baking sheets and shape the remaining dough. Make sure that the cavatelli don't touch or they will stick together.

(To store, refrigerate on the baking sheets, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days, or freeze on the baking sheets and transfer to an airtight container. Use within 1 month. Do not thaw before cooking.)

Bring a large pot filled with generously salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the cavatelli and simmer until they float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and finish with your choice of sauce. Serve right away.


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