GRANDMA'S CAVATELLI PAIRED WITH ZUCCHINI
Your best cooking ideas more than likely will come when you are inspired by some random
ingredient while shopping. For today I had pre-planned something, then...I spotted at a decent
price a bin of small zucchini. Well the red skin potato salad with sour cream and dill idea was
scrapped. Later for that one. I thought making grilled zucchini would be in the cards, but, then
I was thinking, what starch to serve with it??? Earlier in the week I was with a boatload of my
cousins and while in those sleeping moments, I had a dream about my maternal Grandmother.
She's been the topic for quite a few of my posts, she is a main character in the book I am
currently writing, and she continues to inspire me as I recreate many of the dishes she used to
cook along with my grandfather. Her
name was Maria Adelina Melito Scaramuzzi, born to Genneroso and Assunta Prisco Melito
in 1900 in Castelbaronia, Province of Avellino, just to the east of Naples. She lived 10 years in
Castelbaronia, then moved to downtown Naples and lived there until she was 20 when she
immigrated to NYC, settling in Staten Island to marry my Grandfather. What does this all mean
with regards to my choice of what I was cooking? Everything. Years and years ago, I remember
when she would make her cavatelli, that gnocchi like curl of dough that is very popular in the
southern Italian regions. I've been afraid of making them throughout all of my cooking years, and
today thought, let me try it. And pair it up with the zucchini somehow. (Tomato sauce overload this
week, I needed a break, the family too). I decided to think as hard as I could and recreate them.
It was only my wife and my girls, and I had back-up plans incase this was a failure. The dough
could not be more simple, for 4 servings, use one cup of flour and one cup of water. Yes, that's
it. This pasta comes from the poorest of Italy's regions and adding eggs to the dough would be
much too extravagant. In a food processor, add the flour and pulse it. It airates the flour and gives
you a lighter end product. Now stream the water in with the processor on slowly and once the
flour and water become a ball and pull away from the sides..even if the water is not fully used, stop.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2 minutes. Form into a ball, then wrap in
plastic and let it rest in the fridge for no less than 1/2 hour.
The dough should be smooth and pliable.
While it is resting, take 5 small cleaned zucchini and slice them lengthwise about 1/8 inch thick. In a
bowl, add 1/16 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, pinch of salt, 2 finely minced cloves of garlic, and 2 chopped
sprigs of fresh rosemary, remove the leaves, then chop them finely. Add 1 tbs. of Red Wine Vinegar.
Mix. then add the zucchini slices and let them sit in this for about 20 min. Heat a little olive oil in a pan
and on medium heat, saute' the slices, about 7 minutes per side careful to let them not burn or brown
too much. When you have sauteed all the "ribbons" place them back into the rosemary and garlic
Back to the Cavatelli...remove the dough from the refigerator. Unwrap, and slice it into 4 or 5 even pieces.
Roll each piece out into a log, about 1/2 thick. On a floured board, cut the rope(log) into 1/2" bits. Then
turn each bit into a cavatelli by pressing your thumb down onto it then flicking your thumb in a quick
motion away from you. It will cause the bit to curl up around itself and create that little cavatelli shape.
In my head I'm saying. "Grandma,
is this right???"..
Check out the Entenmann's Box of Soft Chocolate Chip
cookies in the background...lol..the're good. But back to the technique we are trying to work on here,
later for cookies and milk. The board must be well floured, or the bits will stick to it as you try to form
Place all the done cavatelli on a platter covered with a kitchen towel. Let them dry for 20 minutes.
Fill a pot with water and bring it to the boil. Add 1 tsp. of salt and when it's at a rolling boil, gently
let the cavatelli fall into the water, stirring so they do not stick. It should take no more than 5 minutes
for this fresh pasta to cook. Taste one, they are chewy and toothsome, but should not taste raw.
Add the drained Cavatelli to the bowl of
zucchini and rosemary oil. Add 1/8 cup of freshly grated Pecorino, and a few grindings of black pepper.
Mix till all the Cavatelli is evenly coated and serve. It is a great dish for easy entertaining, and for
a pasta course with a grilled meat or fish second course. I would suggest that you double the recipe.
We were looking for more, so, 2 cups of flour, and 2 cups of water...maybe 8 zucchini if you are feeding
more than 4 people.
Grazie Ancora Nonna...thanks again Grandma...when she's in the kitchen with me, it's all good.