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cavatelli con rapini e ciccicoli
Cavatelli con Rapini e Ciccioli (Cavatelli with Rapini and Fresh Pork Belly Slices)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any time of the year
Contributed by: Sue Alfieri (her mother's recipe)

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For home-made cavatelli dough
4 cups of flour [or 3 "iemela" -- handfuls]
1 1/2 cups water

For sauce
1 pound fresh pork belly, cut into thick slices*
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 or 3 bunches of fresh rapini [about 2 pounds]
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 teaspoon hot chillies [optional]
1 tablespoon salt [added to pot of water used to cook pasta]
about 1 cup of liquid [reserved from pot in which pasta and rapini have cooked in]
about 1 teaspoon salt [for tossing sauce]

*Fresh pork belly is often sold as pancetta (sometimes spelled, "panchetta") in Italian butcher shops -- but please note that the pancetta used in this dish is Not the cured pancetta that is readily available and offered rolled up and ready to eat; "ciccioli" are made with "fresh" pancetta -- this meat is generally only available in Italian butcher shops in the wintertime (Apparently few Italians ask for it in the summertime, so it is rarely up for sale), what is often sold as fresh pork belly in large North American supermarkets is not good enough as it is generally pre-salted and its taste is rather despicable.


To make cavatelli

Step 1. To make home-made pasta the old-fashioned way you put the 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 water a little at a time, slowly mixing the water and flour.

Step 2. 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).

Step 3. Knead the dough on the well-floured wooden board for about ten minutes.

For those who have a Kitchen Aid or any other type of electric kneader, the process is ridiculously simple and no explanation is required.

Step 4. 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).

Step 5. Let the dough rest for an hour or two at room temperature.

Step 6. Knead the "rested" dough for four or five minutes.

Step 7. Let the "rested" and "re-kneaded" dough rest for another two to three hours (Of course, if you're in a hurry, you can avoid Step 7. In fact, you can also avoid Step 6. Letting the dough "rest" simply makes it easier to roll out. If you're going to use a pasta maker to roll out the dough (instead of a rolling pin), any dough, whether it's "rested" or not, will get get rolled out to the desired thickness, so it's not necessary to let the dough "rest." However, if the dough does rest, you will get a more malleable dough.).

Step 8. Take a piece of "rested" 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).

Step 9. Adjust the pasta machine to a smaller setting, and pass the pasta sheet through the roller once again.

Step 10. Adjust the pasta machine to the "No. 3" setting" and pass the pasta sheet through the roller. Generally, the third setting will get a pasta sheet that is the right thickness (between 1/4 and 1/8 of an inch thick). The length of the pasta sheet will not matter as it is will be cut.

Step 11. Place the pasta sheets on a thinly floured wooden board and cut thin strips of dough -- about 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide.

Step 12. 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 are shaped.

Step 13. Place the cavatelli on a cookie sheet (one that will fit inside the freezer) and spread the cavatelli out. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer.

Step 14. When the cavatelli are completely frozen (wait at least two hours), then put them in a strainer, and strain out any excess flour still clinging to the pasta (The less excess flour you have on the cavatelli, the easier it will be for them to cook later on in the boiling water.).

Step 15. Place the frozen cavatelli in a plastic bag (Now that they are nicely frozen they will not stick to each other) and put them back in the freezer.

Step 16. When needed, take the cavatelli out of the freezer and cook them in a large pot of boiling water. Let them cook for about five to seven minutes (You can take them out when they rise up to the surface, but many people prefer to cook the cavatelli longer so that they'll be softer.).

To prepare rapini

1. Cut off thick stems.

2. Break into large pieces.

3. Rinse under cold water.

To make sauce

1a. Version I: If using fresh pork belly, cut up it into slices (about 1 1/2 inches long by 3/4 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick).

1b. Version II: Or, if using olive oil heat place it in a frying pan, warm it up a bit, then add chopped garlic.

2. If using pork belly pieces till a bit of the fat is rendered [about 3 minutes].

3. If using pork belly pieces, add garlic and continue frying until the garlic is golden and the pork belly pieces are crispy, but not to crispy [about 4 minutes].

4. Keep on low heat while pasta is being cooked.

To prepare pasta.

5. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt.

6. Add cavatelli and cook for about two minutes.

7. Add rapini to the large pot of water with the cavatelli and continue cooking for about 4 minutes (or until the rapini are cooked).

8. Using a strainer, drain the rapini and cavatelli into a large bowl.

9. Add about a cup of water to the tossing sauce in the frying pan.

10. Place the strained rapini and cavatelli in a bowl.

11. Add about half the tossing sauce to the rapini and cavatelli and mix well. Season with salt. And hot chillies (optional).

11. Place the pasta in individual bowls and add more sauce, making sure that there are sufficient amount of pieces of pork belly in each bowl.

12. Serve warm. [Grated Parmesan cheese NOT necessary]


Prior to World War II this was a very popular dish. The well-to-do used fresh pork belly; the not so well-to-do used olive oil, as that was a lot cheaper. The cavatelli con rapini e ciccicoli were made by Sue Alfieri; the photo was taken by Mary Melfi.

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