Cavatelli with Mushrooms and Sage Recipe

Chef notes

Mushrooms are wonderful and there are so many varieties widely available now, sometimes even sold as a “chef’s medley.” I say get ’em, especially in the colder moths, buy them whole so that they’re not dried out and cut them yourself. This will maintain their structural integrity so that you can enjoy the wonderful texture of mushrooms in addition to earthy flavors.

Of all the pastas, this one is among the easiest to make at home. Fine semolina flour is all you need to find, and you’ll be on your way to a great shape. Cavatelli means “little hollows” which is exactly what these look like. They’re perfect for grabbing sauce or butter.

Technique tip: Halve or quarter the mushrooms to mimic the size of pasta you’ll be using.

Swap option: You can use orecchiette instead of cavatelli.

Preparation

For the homemade cavatelli:

1.

In the mixing bowl, add the semolina and 1/2 cup warm water. With the tips of your fingers, massage them together. They should form little balls. Add more water in 2 tablespoons increments until you can form a ball in the bowl (we want to form the ball with just enough water, so that it isn’t drenched. You can always bring it back with more semolina though).

2.

Knead the ball for 5 minutes, wrap in cling film and let rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

3.

Unwrap the dough, flatten it out into a pancake about 1/2-inch thick. Cut strips from the pancake 1/2-inch wide. Roll those strips into snake like, cylindrical entities. Cut 1-inch long pieces from the strips.

4.

Working 1 piece at a time, hold a table knife flat on top, blade parallel to the cut sides of the dough, push down and roll the dough until it is shaped into that “hollow,” cylindrical shape. Knock it into the sheet tray and repeat with all remaining dough. You may need to sprinkle a little flour on the sheet tray to prevent sticking.

5.

The cavatelli can live in the freezer for 3 months, ready to use whenever. Even when frozen they cook faster than boxed pasta — ready when they float to the top of the water, about 3 minutes.

For the mushrooms:

1.

Set a pot filled with at least 3 quarts of water over high heat and bring to a boil.

2.

Cut the mushrooms into 1-inch pieces. This may mean simply quartering or halving them.

3.

In the sauté over medium high heat, add the mushrooms, allow them to sizzle, brown and expel liquid in the naked pan for about five minutes, or until there is visible color on them.

4.

Add the sage and butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the ingredients around well, then turn heat to low.

5.

When the water is boiling, add enough salt that the water tastes like a soup (yes, try the pasta water with a spoon). When you’ve got it right, add the pasta and cook until they float to the top (about 3 minutes).

6.

Add the pasta to the mushroom pan and toss, toss, toss. Add cheese and toss. If it looks a little dry, add some more pasta water and toss, then plate.

7.

If you need to cut through the richness of the butter, add some lemon zest or balsamic, but it all depends on your mushrooms, so make the choice after tasting.

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