With fall upon us, we are starting to have shorter days and slightly cooler weather. This weekend, it started to feel like fall to me for the first time. We had days that were warm when you walked on the sunny side of the street, but cool in the shade. The wind kicked up a bit, and it seemed like having a sweater wasn’t such a bad idea.
Fall weather reminds me of comfort food. For me, there are not many meals that are more comforting than handmade pasta with a slowly simmered ragu, so that is exactly what I made. I relied on a cookbook from one of my favorite Italian restaurants, A16, for its Ragu alla Napoletana recipe. Unfortunately, the recipe does not appear to be publicly available but you can buy the cookbook here. I will say this, there are only a few ingredients and it basically involves simmering large pieces of pork (proscuitto, pig’s trotter, and pork shoulder) in tomatoes for four hours. The sauce picks up the flavor and fat from the meat and develops a rich taste and velvety texture. It is the BEST.
I also decided to try my hand at making homemade cavatelli. In our family, we have a tradition of going to a certain restaurant in our neighborhood every Friday night. My kids love, love, love the homemade cavatelli pasta. We missed our Friday night dinner this week, which is what prompted me to think about making cavatelli at home. As it turns out, the cavatelli was so easy to make any even my 3 year old son got into the act.
Handmade Cavatelli – Recipe from The Wall Street Journal
2 1/2 cups ’00’ flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sparkling mineral water
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Put all ingredients into the bowl of stand mixture with a hook attachment. Mix until the dough comes together.
Turn onto a wooden cutting board. Knead the dough by folding the far edge of the dough toward you push the dough down with the heel of your hand. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat, continuing to turn, fold and push for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and supple and springs back when poked. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, ideally 24 hours.
Remove dough from refrigerator and slice off a 1-inch section, then slice in half lengthwise. Roll against a wooden surface to form tubes slightly skinnier than your pinkie. Cut tubes into segments as long as your thumb is wide.
To begin shaping cavatelli, stick your right thumb up and then turn hand so thumb is pointing left. Maintaining even pressure, use your thumb to push a piece of dough forward and up. The dough should spring up and form around the curve your thumb. (Look at the WSJ link. There is a video that is very helpful.) Use a bench scraper or knife to transfer to a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and sprinkled with flour, making sure pieces don’t touch. Let pasta dry slightly, 30-45 minutes
Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil until pasta floats to the surface and remains there for 30 seconds (1 1/2 – 2 minutes total). Enjoy with the A16 ragu above, or your favorite red sauce.
If you are ready for a slow-cooked fall meal, this comforting red sauce and pasta cannot be beat. Pair it with an Italian red and you are good to go. Happy fall!
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