As far back as I can remember pasta and I have been thick as thieves. Elbow macaroni with butter and Parmesan cheese from the proverbial Kraft green can was the quintessential dish of my youth. Mom always had a bowl of pastina; tiny little pasta stars when I was sick and Aunt Biddy showed me how Michiganders made real egg noodles.
Some of my most meaningful dishes are eating spaghetti with the “red lead.” I actually shudder now to think that I ate SpaghettiOs with sliced franks. There has to be a Cuchinelli relative mortified by that one.
But times do change. There are so many pasta choices out there now; fusilli, orzo, farfalle, and cappellini. And when I thought I had seen them all, cavatelli appeared.
Pasta is usually flour, eggs, water, pinch of salt. Cavatelli is the same, with the addition of ricotta. I found out through The Frankie’s Spuntino cookbook that cavatelli even has its own assigned pasta maker. The original one was called Beebo made by Berarducci Brothers. In 2008 production was stopped. I ended up in a wicked Ebay battle for an original one- but at $60 I decided to go with plan B….Pasta Fresh.
Envision a storefront with huge Italian flags out front, statues of half-naked woman draped in plastic grapes…get the idea?? As I walked in Mr. Bartucci greeted me at the door with a slice of focaccia drizzled with EVOO and sliced tomatoes. Twenty-two years selling pasta and here’s what was offered on just an average Saturday morning: thirteen fresh pastas, sixteen raviolis, seven tortellini and a partridge in a pear tree. Don’t even get me going on the sauces (six of them). Time to stay seriously focused. Cavatelli, cavatelli, cavatelli. Mr. B thought a pound would do me.
This dish is done in two ways. One with roasted cauliflower and the second with sausage. Both were equally luscious. The recipe below is vegetarian.
1 head of cauliflower
6 tbs. unsalted butter
8 large sage leaves
1 lb. of fresh cavatelli
1 cup Pecorino Romano
½ cup flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Salt & Pepper
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut cauliflower into half-dollar-sized pieces.
3. In large bowl, toss cauliflower with a big splash of EVOO. Season with large pinch of salt and pepper.
4. Spread florets out on a baking sheet.
5. Roast for 40-50 minutes until florets are browned and shrunken.
1. Put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it well.
1. Heat 6 tbs. of butter on medium heat.
2. Add the sage leaves and a few twists of pepper.
3. Stir the butter for a few minutes until it stops foaming and takes on color.
4. At this point, put the cavatelli into the boiling water. Continue to cook the butter until it is deeply brown and fragrant; about 4 minutes more, which should be just about how long the fresh cavatelli takes to cook.
5. Do not drain the cavatelli too thoroughly. The water clinging to the pasta will give the sauce body. Add it to the butter sauce, along with the roasted cauliflower and stir.
6. Add the cheese; stir again. Portion the cavatelli among serving plates. Scatter each with a couple of pinches of parsley. Serve immediately.
Recipe from The Frankie’s Spuntino Cooking Manual.