I have decided that I will try to post regularly about how to make different pasta shapes and how to cook them. I think I will start out with a monthly appointment on the first Sunday of each month and see how it goes. I am very excited about making pasta right now, but it can be quite time consuming and I am afraid, I might burn out if I try to make it too often. So I’ll start slow and see how it goes.
So for the first post in this series I am going to show you how to make orecchiette. Orechiette (literally little ears) are a dry pasta format typical of South Italy. They are originally from Puglia, but they are now commonly found (and loved) all over Italy.
Like most pasta, orecchiette are made using just semolina flour and water. What makes them different is the shape. Orecchiette are round and scooped, so they can hold pretty sturdy sauces, but the typical sauce is made with broccoli rabe. Just boil the orecchiette with the broccoli and dress with chili oil and you will have a meal fit for a king!
Place the semolina on a table and create a large well in the middle of the semolina flour. Pour the warm water in the well and quickly mix in the flour. The dough will rapidly come together in a smooth and relatively tough mass. Knead the dough until all the flour has been incorporated and the dough looks smooth. Place the dough under a bowl for 10 minutes or so to rest so that the gluten can relax.
While the dough is resting set up your work station. Place a large wooden board on the table, get a table knife and get a couple of cookies cooling rack that you will use for drying the pasta. If you don't have the cooling racks, you can use a couple of kitchen towels.
Get a small portion, about 1/10th, of the dough and roll it into a long narrow roll, about as thick as a finger. keep the rest of the dough under the bowl. Now you are ready to start shaping the orecchiette.
With a knife cut a small pea sized piece of dough. Using the knife, press down on the dough and pull it towards you. You will get a thin, rolled up piece of pasta.
Pick the pasta roll up and using your thumb unroll the piece of pasta and push the center of the little pasta roll outward. You will get an orechietta. To see the movement, look a the video below.
Place the shaped orecchiette to dry on a cooling rack or on a kitchen towel for at least 2 hour, but overnight is great if you have the time.
The traditional way of cooking orecchiette is with broccoli rabe. Bring water to a boil in a large pot (at least 1 gallon). When water is boiling add 1/4 cup salt and add the orecchiette. After 5 minutes, add a bunch of cleaned broccoli rabe. Let cook until the pasta is ready, about 5-10 more minutes. orecchiette should be soft, but still be a bit toothsome.
While the pasta is cooking, warm up the olive oil and melt the anchovies in it. Add the garlic and the chili flakes and cook until the garlic is golden brown. Discard the garlic.
When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to the pan with the oil and the anchovies. Saute the pasta until the pasta and the sauce are well mixed.