I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ricotta Cavatelli with Mushrooms

I am blessed to have a husband who understands (and tolerates/encourages) my passions and obsessions. So, of course, I received multiple food gifts from him this Christmas. Though they were all great the one that has been the source of all kitchen inspiration through that last month has been my pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

In the past I've struggled to get my pasta to the thin, delicate texture it requires while not having the dough fall apart completely under my rolling pin. Now with just the flip of a switch I am able to roll out doughs of multiple thicknesses ready for a million different applications. Therefore dreams of pasta have been swimming through my brain for weeks.

I started off with a basic tagliatelle tossed with truffle butter for a simply elegant first outing for my new toy. As a follow-up I went with a non-Italian "pasta": pork and chive dumplings. The attachment helped me to roll out the flour and water mixture into sheets of an ideal thickness to hold in the juicy, porky filling while not falling apart during cooking (if you are curious, I used it down to the #4 setting for these). I used a glass to then cut perfect little rounds since my previous attempts to hand-roll always left me with irregular, lumpy shapes.

Note that my dumpling folding needs a little practice...

Next up for the roller is a tortellini you will be seeing here soon and I have ideas that pierogies should be making an appearance shortly as well.

The pasta kick I have been on even extends past those using the attachment. I have been testing my pumpkin gnocchi recipe for my Valentine's Day event over and over to get them perfect for my customers. I'm finally happy with the result but glad I don't have to eat them again myself for a long time. :)

I then decided to make my all-time favorite pasta; cavatelli, with the assistance of another new little kitchen tool: the gnocchi board.

In my gnocchi tests I discovered it overworked the dough and required too much flour to use the board for actual gnocchi. They became dense little pucks that were nowhere near the light, fluffy dollops I wanted to serve. But I realized it would be a perfect tool to roll out the ridge-covered, chewy, ricotta-based cavatelli.

The method of hand-rolling these little dumplings definitely takes time, but it is a repetitive task that is soothing and mindless, like folding napkins at work or knitting. It keeps your hands busy but allows your mind to wander and dream. I foresee many relaxing afternoons of rolling out batches of these to offer up to my friends and loved ones, perhaps with a negroni in hand and a dream of Italy in my mind's eye.

Cavatelli pair well with many types of sauce but my favorite is to present them with sauteed mushrooms that are tossed with ricotta to create a creamy yet light sauce. A bit of the pasta cooking water is added to help keep it loose. Though more cheese is unnecessary, a sprinkle of Parmesan to finish the dish adds an extra salty bite.

edit: Buy your own gnocchi board here on Amazon. Cheap ($5) and arrives quickly. You won't regret it after you whip up a batch of these guys.

Ricotta Cavatelli in Mushroom Ricotta Sauce
for the cavatelli*:
4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. whole milk or heavy cream

*note: this makes a double batch of the cavatelli, but I went ahead and made it all and froze half for later use. To freeze, lay the cavatelli in a single layer on parchment paper covered baking sheets and then place in the freezer. Once frozen, place in a plastic baggie and return to the freezer.

Pour the flour into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Make a well in the center and fill with the egg, ricotta, and cream. Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry until it comes together to form a dough. Dump the dough out onto the counter (discarding any excess flour) and knead for 3-4 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll into long, 1/2" thick snakes (I find it is easiest to do this if you don't use much flour yet--the flour keeps the dough from sticking meaning it slides back and forth and won't get thinner). Cut into 1/2" thick pieces and sprinkle them all with a good portion of flour. Now take your bench scraper in one hand and use it along with your other hand to toss the little dough pieces with the flour to coat them on all sides.

Take each little dough piece and roll it out on the gnocchi board. Place the long side perpendicular to the ridges, press down with your thumb as you roll the whole piece towards the bottom of the board. You want to apply a pretty firm pressure to really make those ridges thick and to help roll the cavatelli into itself. Push the cavatelli off onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and continue with the remaining dough.

For the sauce:
12 oz. mushrooms (preferably a mixture of oyster, shitake, cremini, etc.), chopped
2 TB butter
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 t. thyme, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 the cavatelli from the above recipe

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Heat a large(12"), heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and extra virgin olive oil to the pan. Once the butter is melted and the oils are hot, add the mushrooms and give them a good toss. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes without stirring to help them brown and then flip/toss and brown them on the other sides as much as possible. The sprinkle on the thyme, salt and pepper and toss the mushrooms for another 1-2 minutes.

While cooking the mushrooms, add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Before draining be sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid.

Now add the ricotta cheese and about 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to the mushrooms. Toss for about 1-2 minutes until the sauce comes together. Now add in the cooked cavatelli and toss. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese to serve.


That Girl said...

I need more room for food gifts!

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