If there’s something that’s therapeutic for me, it’s dough making. Whether it’s pasta, tarts or bread, I love working with doughs. I think it’s so relaxing to work with it and shape it in different ways. In this case, I want to show you how to make Orecchiette: a pasta shape that doesn’t need a pasta machine and yet it’s still gorgeous.
It’s an amazing project to do on your own or with someone else while you chat, listen to music and have a glass of wine. This pasta is called “orecchiette” because it’s shaped like an ear; not the convex side, of course, the other side with a hole in it :). To make them all you need is a butter-type knife; one that’s not serrated nor super sharp. I also used a small offset spatula and it works perfectly as well.
Here’s a small gif I made to show you how it’s done. It’s really hard to put into words! You first make a snake of dough and cut small portions of it. You then form those into balls. With the knife, you place it over the dough and drag it out at a very slight angle. This will make the dough curl! Finally, you just turn it inside-out and you’re done :).
If you want to make long pasta like Fetuccine, you do need a pasta machine. It’s not that you can’t make it with a rolling pin, but pasta doughs are tough and it will be hard to get it really thin. These Orecchiette are perfect for soups and sauces. That little hole traps the sauce in the best possible way. I recommend my vodka sauce which is my favourite in the whole wide world.
In this case I made a really quick sauce “cacio e pepe” style. Cacio e pepe is a sauce made with Pecorino cheese, pepper and the pasta’s cooking water. This time, will social distancing, I only have Parmesan cheese available, which is still similar. You can also use Parmesan if it’s what you have at home. The nice thing about the pasta’s cooking water is that it has a bit of flour from the pasta, and this helps the sauce come together instead of curdling.
To cook pasta, you always want to use plenty of water and salt. The salt flavours the pasta and helps it to stay al dente as well. It’s not necessary to add oil because it doesn’t do anything to the pasta; it just floats over it. If you want to prevent the pasta from sticking, the best policy is to transfer the pasta to your sauce as soon as it’s ready. If your sauce isn’t ready when your pasta is (not the case of this particular sauce that needs the pasta to start off), mix the pasta with olive oil while it waits.
For the dough
- 300 g “00” Italian flour can be replaced with all purpose flour
- 100 g eggs around 2 eggs
- 50 g egg yolks around 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp water
For the cacio e pepe sauce
- ¼ cup pasta water
- 50 g Pecorino cheese or Parmesan, finely grated
- Salt to taste
- Plenty pepper
For the dough
- Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Make a hole in the center and add the rest of the ingredients there.
- Start mixing with a spatula or your hands from the center, slowly incorporating the dry ingredients. When the spatula doesn’t help anymore, use your hands to bring the dough together. Alternatively, place all the ingredients inside the bowl of a food processor and process until homogeneous. While kneading, if you feel the dough is a bit dry, dampen your hands and keep mixing. If you feel it's too wet, dust a bit of salt on your surface and incorporate it.
- Wrap the dough in beeswax wrap or cling film and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 24h.
- Divide the dough in 6, work with one section first while keeping the rest covered to prevent them from drying.
- Make the dough into a long snake and cut it up in tiny sections. Roll each section into a ball.
- Use a non-serated nor sharp knife to drag the ball along an un-floured surface, making it curl up. The knife should only have a tiny angle to the table, making it almost flat. You can lightly dust the surface if your dough is being too sticky. Turn the curl of dough inside out so that it looks like a tiny hat. Check out the video I uploaded lines above to see how it's done!
- Let the pasta dry before cooking, this will make it nice and al dente. It's ideal to dry it on a cooling rack so that both the top and bottom dry faster. It will take 1-2 hours for this process to happen.
- At this point, you can freeze the pasta. You do this by spreading it out on a tray that you can fit in your freezer that's lined with baking paper. Make sure they're not touching each other. You can make several layers of them separated by baking paper. After 8 hours like this, you can transfer them to a container for the rest of the time as they will no longer stick together.
For the sauce
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water with salt. It will take 2-5 minutes to be al dente, depending on the thickness and size of your pasta.
- Transfer the cooked pasta to a preheated pan over medium heat along with ¼ cup of the pasta's cooking water. Mix the cheese and pepper in.
- Cook until the sauce comes together. Taste it and correct the salt level. Serve immediately.