Cavatieddi con la Rucola

Tiny Pasta Shells with Rocket

Cavatieddi look like small pasta seashells. In this recipe they are cooked with rocket to give them a distinctive flavour, then dressed with a plain tomato sauce. Knead the pasta dough with as much energy and gusto as possible. Both the red, white and green colours and the texture of the dish are most attractive.

Ingredients

  • 100 g ( oz) semolina
  • 200 g (7 oz) strong white flour
  • tepid salted water
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 500 ml (18 fl oz) passata or sieved tomato
  • salt and pepper
  • 450 g (1 lb) rocket washed, or spinach, trimmed
  • freshly grated pecorino cheese, to taste

Method

Sift the semolina and flour together twice on to the table top. Make them into a mound. Plunge your fist into the centre of the pile, pour in a little tepid salty water. Begin to knead together – you are trying to achieve the same consistency as bread dough, stiffer, but no softer. After about 25 minutes you should have reached the right texture. Cover the dough with a damp tea cloth.

To form the pasta shapes, break off pieces of the dough, keeping the rest covered. Roll each piece into a cylinder about 30–40 cm (1216 inches) long. Each cylinder should be no thicker than 1 cm (¾ inch) and each piece of dough must be worked quickly to prevent it drying out. When the cylinder of dough is the right length and thickness, cut it into discs with a sharp knife. Then poke the point of the knife into the centre of each disc and roll it up on itself, to make it slightly concave. This used to be done rolling the pasta several times along the wood grain of a rough table top, which also marked the outside. They should look like small seashells.

When all the dough has been rolled and shaped, leave the cavatieddi uncovered to dry in the air overnight. Turn over to dry the underside. When they are completely dried out, they are ready for cooking in water.

The next day, fry the onion, celery, garlic and carrot in the oil until the onion is soft and transparent. Pour in the passata and stir. Season with salt and pepper, cover and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Put the rocket in a saucepan cover with cold water and a pinch of salt and boil briefly until tender. Double the quantity of water, return to the boil and add in the pasta. Cook until al dente (tender but still with some bite).

Drain the pasta and rocket together, transfer to a warmed bowl, pour over the tomato sauce. Toss together thoroughly, scatter pecorino cheese over it all and serve.

An alternative is to dress the cavatieddi quite simply with 115 ml (4 fl oz) of olive oil in which you have fried 3 cloves of garlic and 2 salted anchovies. The oil must be of the very best quality.

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