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X Italian Pasta Dishes
Cavetelli dough (with flour, eggs and water, Version II)
Originated from: Italy and North America
Occasion: Any time
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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For dough
3 iemela of flour* (about 4 cups of flour)
1 egg
Water, as much as needed to make a soft dough

*To get an "iemela" of flour, you place both your hands into a large flour container and when your hands are cupped together and over-flowing with flour this is an "iemela." An "iemela" seems to be equivalent to 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of flour. A "pugno" of flour on the other hand seems to be less than a cup.


o Place about 4 cups or so of flour on a floured wooden board, gather it all up into a mound, make a well or hole in the center, then add a beaten egg to it and a little water at a time, slowly mixing the water, egg and flour. Form the mixture into a thick ball of dough. Continue mixing until the ball of dough cannot absorb any more water (if the dough is too dry add more water, if it's too wet, add more flour). Knead the dough on the well-floured wooden board for about ten minutes. When you have a pasta dough that is smooth and malleable, form a ball and then place it under a container. Place a kitchen towel over the container (to keep it warm).

o Let the dough rest for a half an hour or so at room temperature.

o Knead the "rested" dough for four or five minutes. Let the "rested" and "re-kneaded" dough rest in the cold room or fridge overnight (one will get a more malleable dough by doing this).

o Remove the rested dough from the container and form in a cylinder roll. Slice a piece of dough (about 2" x 2"), flatten it with your hands, and then pass it through the pasta maker at the widest setting. If it doesn't come out nice and smooth, flour the pasta sheet and pass it through the pasta machine again (The process of passing the dough through the pasta machine, besides flattening it out, also "kneads" it).

o Adjust the pasta machine to a smaller setting, and pass the pasta sheet through the roller once again.

o Continue passing the pasta sheet to smaller settings until you get to the required thickness -- about 1/4 of an inch thick [Of all the pastas cavatelli uses one of the softest dough, and one of the thickest]. Generally the third or fourth setting on an Italian-style pasta maker will get a pasta sheet that is the right thickness. The length of the pasta sheet will not matter as it is will be cut into smaller pieces. After one has finished one pasta sheet, place the remaining pasta in the container, cover and process the first set of cavatelli (The dough hardens, so it is best to process one pasta sheet at a time).

o Place the rolled-out pasta sheet on a thinly floured wooden board and cut thin strips of dough -- about 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide.

o Using your two fingers (those closest to the thumb) press on the dough and roll it towards you (The less flour on the wooden board, the easier it is to roll the strips of dough), so that two tiny shell-like indentations are made on the pasta strips. Keep doing this until all the pasta strips from the first rolled out pasta sheet are shaped.

o Place the cavatelli on a lightly floured cookie sheet (one that will fit inside the freezer) and spread the cavatelli out. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer. P.S. Technically one does not have to freeze the cavatelli, one can air-dry them for about an hour, and then cook them. This might actually might be the best way of preparing them. However, because of the delicate structure of the cavatelli, the freezing does help the cavatelli to retain their shape.

o When the cavatelli are completely frozen (wait at least two hours), then one can either cook them at this time, or one can place them in a plastic bag or container [frozen, they will not stick together] and return them to the freezer. N.B. Some professional cooks put the frozen cavatelli in a strainer, and strain out any excess flour still clinging to the pasta, prior to re-freezing them, but this is not absolutely necessary.

o When needed, take the cavatelli out of the freezer and cook them in a large pot of boiling salted water. Let them cook for about four to six minutes (You can take them out when they rise up to the surface, but many people prefer to cook them longer so that they'll be softer.).

o Toss with sauce.

o Serve warm.


In Italy my mother (and her mother) never used eggs to make cavetelli. However, once she immigrated to Montreal, Quebec that changed. She found that by adding egg to the dough it made it easier to handle, and gave it more texture and taste.... Photo and notes: Mary Melfi.

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