Only eight pantry staples stand between you and a bowl of this epically delicious pasta.

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Credit: Victor Protasio

Recipe Summary

hands-on:
1 hr 15 mins
total:
1 hr 20 mins
Yield:
4 to 6 servings
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Cavatelli is a type of fresh pasta, beloved for its toothsome texture and ability to snag sauce in its canoe-like shape. Though it might sound intimidating to make your own dough and form the pieces, it's as simple as stirring together a quick semolina dough that's then cut and molded around a dull knife. Homemade cavatelli is an especially nice project for kids, or just when zoning out and enjoying the process of making something from scratch, alone or with friends or a loved one, sounds just perfect. While other fresh pasta shapes, like fettuccine or Ricotta Roll-Ups in Creamy Pumpkin Sauce, require a bit more precision (and patience), cavatelli means just rolling the dough into a rope and playing. Plus, it's not even out of the question for a weeknight meal if you time it right. Here, the fresh cavatelli are bathed with a delicious tomato sauce that's infused with nearly a head of garlic and tender sautéed shallots, but you could pair the pasta with other ingredients. Try homemade cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage or butternut squash and sage, or with your favorite sauce.

Shopping tip: semolina flour is available at most supermarkets, often near all-purpose flour.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Stir flour, ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon water, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a large bowl until crumbly pieces of dough form. Transfer to a work surface. Using your hands, press together dough pieces and remaining dry flour until a mass forms. Knead dough until uniform, smooth, and firm, 5 to 7 minutes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap; let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

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  • Meanwhile, make the sauce: Place oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium-low. Once garlic starts to sizzle, reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Add shallots and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often and lightly mashing most garlic cloves with a fork, until shallots are very tender, about 10 minutes.

  • Drain tomatoes over a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup; reserve ½ cup liquid. Place drained tomatoes in a large bowl and gently crush with your hands. Stir tomatoes into garlic mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-low. Partially cover; cook, stirring occasionally and mashing tomatoes lightly with a wooden spoon, until sauce has thickened slightly, 15 to 20 minutes. Add reserved ½ cup liquid; cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in oregano and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Remove from heat.

  • Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour. Unwrap dough and cut into 4 pieces. Place 1 piece on a work surface; rewrap remaining pieces.

  • Shape cavatelli: Roll dough into a ½-inch-thick rope. Cut rope crosswise into ½-inch pieces; pieces will flatten as you cut. Working with 1 piece at a time, hold a table knife flat on top, blade parallel to cut sides. Place index and middle fingers on top of knife. Firmly press into dough and roll knife until dough comes off in the shape of a hot dog bun. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

  • Cook cavatelli in boiling water, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking water. Add cooked cavatelli and reserved cooking water to tomato sauce. Place saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until pasta is coated in sauce, 1 to 3 minutes. Top with cheese, if desired.

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