Soft-as-Pillows Ricotta Cavatelli
Somewhere between the conical roofs, turquoise waters and feral cats, we fell in love with Puglia. Sure, there were many moments of discontent when we scraped the car on the ancient curbs of Brindisi or got lost in the olive groves of Cisternino because the GPS was totally confused. But when we sat down to eat a fresh plate of pasta with a glass of juicy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, it was hard to stay mad.
Cavatelli is a pasta that you’ll find in most parts of Southern Italy and especially in the Puglia region. It’s similar to the wonderfully chewy Malloredus, a semolina gnocchi from Sardinia. But this cavatelli recipe incorporates ricotta cheese, creating a pasta that is chewy but velvety and adds a creaminess to your dish, which makes it a perfect match for the high-acidity of a tomato-based sauce. Like this amatriciana sauce or puttanesca sauce.
This dough can be rolled out, quickly, with a cavatelli maker, which are quite inexpensive on Amazon. Or by hand, with a gnocchi board, which are even less expensive. In a pinch, you could try re-creating the shape by pressing little bits of the dough against the ridges of a fork.
No matter which method you choose, make sure to flour your dough rope generously. Especially in the cavatelli maker, where I find that it tends to stick.
Ricotta Cavatelli Dough
- 500 gr/ 3 1/2 cups + 1 TBSP all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 TSP kosher salt
- 480 gr/ 2 cups of whole-milk ricotta
- 55 gr / 1/4 cup of whole milk
- 1 egg
In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together until they form a rough ball. Transfer ball to a countertop and begin kneading for about 10 minutes (you can also do this on medium speed in a standing mixer). The dough should be smooth and not sticky. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.
Set up your workstation – get a few cookie sheets, lightly-floured, ready to hold the finished cavatelli.
Cut off a small chunk of dough and leave the rest covered. Start to roll out the dough into a long rope about 1/2 inch in diameter. ** I find it helpful to lightly dampen my hands and start from the middle, rolling the dough back and forth, while I work my hands towards the edges.
If using a gnocchi board or fork, lightly flour the rope and cut into 1/2 in pieces. With the side of your thumb, press the piece against the board or fork, dragging it down so it starts to create a curved shape.
If using the cavatelli maker, flour your rope and slowly feed it into the opening. Turn the crank to start the cavatelli maker.
Immediately flour the cavatelli and place, not touching, onto the cookie sheets.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the cavatelli in and cook 1-3 minutes until they float.
With a slotted spoon remove cavatelli and mix with your favorite sauce. Serve immediately.
**You can also stick the cookie sheets directly into the freezer and then transfer to a plastic bag. They will keep frozen for one month. Or in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.