Pasta Straight from My Kitchen

Dear Anne,

I have not been doing enough cooking lately.  Because things have been busy, and they aren’t going to stop any time soon now the holiday season is upon us, most of my culinary adventures are relegated to the weekend.  Fortunately, the holiday season means I can bake to my heart’s content and people at the office will make less fuss about me constantly bringing in food. This weekend I got a little crazy and made pumpkin pancakes and cavatelli from scratch.  However, I heard no complaints from roommate Wesley.

The pumpkin pancakes were not as good as I had hoped, but I think that’s my own fault for building them up in my head.  The recipe called for a pinch of cloves, and I was too generous in my pinching, because the clove flavor overpowered the other, more desirable flavors, such as cinnamon.  In the future I will most certainly be increasing the cinnamon in this recipe.  Also, I served this with butter and real New York maple syrup, but it was too sweet.  I spent the rest of breakfast trying to figure out how to make this better.  Perhaps a fruit compote, like apples with cinnamon for instance, would be preferable.  It wouldn’t be too sweet, but would keep the overall experience from being too dry. (Sorry no pictures because I am the worst.)

Most Sunday evenings, some coworkers and I place euchre.  We rotate houses, and whomever is hosting that week makes dinner for all of us.  This week, Wesley and I hotsed.  Wesley made this beauty of a cheesecake:  pumpkin nutella cheesecake.  Please take a minute to appreciate the amazingness this dessert.  It took a lot of will power to not sneak bites all afternoon.  There are two pieces left in the fridge as I type this, and I am thinking about getting one even though I am not at all hungry. It’s that good.

While Wesley encapsulated heaven in cheesecake form, I made cavatelli, which is an Italian pasta with potato in the dough.  It’s similar to gnocchi, but it uses much less potato.  I guess you could call it a light dumpling.  I choose to call it wonderful.   Every Thanksgiving, my family makes thousands of cavatelli.  Then with our turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, we have cavatelli in red sauce.  I may have described the cavatelli-making process with you before, but I’m going to relay it again because 1. I repeat myself often, and 2. I won’t be participating in Thanksgiving cavatelli this year, so I must relive the experience in my mind.  At the Comito Family Stead, aka my mother’s kitchen, a myriad of relatives convene.  Everyone has their role, one they’ve usually been doing for years with the hope that someday they will be old enough to move up to a new job.  However, there really is no upward mobility in the Comito Family Cooking School.  You do what you’re told, and you don’t ask questions.  For cavatelli, my role is usually “cranker,” meaning I get to feed the pasta through the machine.  This is a role I lobbied for years to win, and one from which I do not plan on retiring  anytime soon, regardless of my lack of participation in the last couple years. I spent a lot of years rolling dough before I got to be cranker.  Anyway, the real magic of cavatelli-making is the atmosphere. It’s hard to accurately describe, but I will sum it for you in this haiku:

Insults thrown, laughing

Vince Guaraldi blasting loud

Who is crying now?

Did I ever make cavatelli for you, Anne?  I know I never made it from scratch for you, but maybe I brought some back to Wash 6 and made it with red sauce? Last night, I chopped up half an onion (more accurately, Wesley heroically  cut the onion half), sauteed it with some mushrooms, wilted some spinach, tossed it all with the cavatelli, and sprinkled some good parm on top.  The group devoured it, and we have no leftovers.  However, we do have quite a bit of cavatelli in our freezer since I made a bigger batch of dough than I anticipated.  Sometime after Thanksgiving I’ll make some sauce, but don’t think it the recipe will make it to the blog.  Nice try, Annes.  However, if I can figure out how to ship you some, I will.

Cavatelli

*Note:  This is another vague Comito family recipe, where you are required to go by feel.

Ingredients

Flour

Large Eggs

A mashed potato (use a starchy potato)

Milk

Salt

*These are the basic ingredients.  The ratio of flour to eggs is 1:1. For example, I used 5 cups of flour and 5 eggs.  When I called Aunt Jackie she said to to 5 cups of flour and 4 eggs, but four eggs weren’t enough for me. I think when my family does this, they use jumbo eggs, which would make the 5:4 ratio more accurate. Also, I don’t think we ever use more than one potato ever.

Instructions

1. Peel and boil potato

2. Mash potato, add a little milk

3. Combine flower and eggs. Dough will be mealy and dry. Add a little potato. Maybe some milk.

4. Knead until you have a slightly sticky dough, and it is malleable enough to form decent ball of dough. (You will likely need to add more milk and potato before you get to this point. Like I said earlier, this is a vague, play-it-by-ear recipe.)

5. Let ball of dough rest under a bowl for 30-60 minutes, or whenever you remember you’re cooking

6. Get out your amazing cavatelli machine, courtesy Aunt Jackie.  Properly assemble.

This is not the exact machine I use, but it’s basically the same.

7. Slice dough into decent sized pieces. (Again, you’ll just have to eyeball this.) (At this point, your dough should be a beautiful and supple ball of dough that is smooth to the touch and bounces back ever so slightly when pressed.)

8. Roll dough into ropes.

9. VERY LIGHTLY DUST ropes with some flour. (For the love that is all good and holy, do not over flour this stuff. It will make your life terrible.)

10. Place a floured cookie tray under your cavatelli machine.

11. Send those VERY LIGHTLY DUSTED ropes of delicious dough through your cavatelli maker.

12. Make sure to spread out the cavatelli as you make them.  You don’t want them to stick together.

13. After you fill up a tray, put it in the freezer.  (Letting them freeze makes them easier to handle when putting them in bags or containers for storage.)

14. Keep doing this until you run out of dough.

For consumption:  boil water (remember to salt the water), add cavatelli to boiling water, and cook for…I want to say 10-ish minutes. I could be wrong about that.  I literally just taste the cavatelli at various points during the cooking and turn off the heat after I’ve determined they’re done.  Strain cavatelli, and enjoy with your favorite sauce.  We usually just use a red sauce, but you can do just about anything with them.

Kisses and kitten,

Carolyne

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