Orecchiette have been on my list of pasta to make for a long time and this Sunday was the day! At a local restaurant some time ago I had order a dish of spelt orecchiette which were delicious and thinking of the spelt flour I had just purchase, I thought spelt orecchiette were just the thing. However some online research did not deliver a spelt orecchiette recipe instead the pasta used for orecchiette seemed to be a simple semolina flour and water dough. So let's not rock the boat...we will stick with tried and true....for the time being, anyway!
While we are talking about pasta, be sure to try my homemade cavatelli pasta and my delicious tortellini alla panna, my kids ask me to make it over and over again!
Taking a look at the method to hand make orecchiette looked simple...just drag the knife over the little pieces of dough and turn inside out. Easy! Hmmm, so I thought but instead I struggled while my daughter who always masters hand made pasta, ( I think she has an Italian nonna within! ) had no problems. It is tricky. There is no denying that but after a couple (read "lots") of failures, success was mine! Very excited to produce our first orecchiette!
With some local organic streaky bacon, fresh broccoli and good Parmesan our Sunday lunch was fit for a King (or Queen)
3 cups fine semolina flour
1 cup plain flour
good pinch salt
1 ¼ to 1 ½ warm water ( 105F to 115F or 40C to 45C)
1 tablespoon (20mls) extra virgin olive oil
Place the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the machine on slow and drizzle in ½ cup of water. Mix until thoroughly absorbed and the mixture is sandy - this could take 2 or 3 minutes. We need the flour to adsorb the water for as long as possible as this develops the gluten. Once we add the oil this inhibits the development of the gluten.
Drizzle in another ½ cup of warm water (it may need reheating) and continue to mix for 5 or 6 minutes. Drizzle in a ¼ of a cup of warm water and keep mixing for another 5 minutes. By this stage if you machine is anything like mine it will be protesting! Drizzle in the oil and mix for a further 5 minutes. By now the mixture should start coming together and feel a bit like Play Dough. If it doesn't add in a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Once it is ready flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
Now for the fun part! Take golf ball size pieces of dough and roll a long rope of dough. Keep the rest of your dough covered. The dough should be a little bit thinner than your fingers maybe ½ an inch or so in diametre. Now cut the rope into little pillows of only about ½ an inch or less. As you go you will learn to adjust the size according to the size of orecchiette you are making.
Take a butter knife or dinner knife, press firmly on one portion...
...draw the knife towards you causing the dough to curl...
.... you should end up with something that looks like this....
....with your fingers unfurl it and turn it inside out shaping it over your thumb. And, just like magic you have made your first orecchiette!
After a while you will have lots!
To serve with our freshly made orecchiette I turned to our local organic streaky bacon from Backfatters. The pigs at the Backfatter's farm are very happy, heritage pigs that roam freely. I love that we have such premium quality at our doorstep.
So in a little extra virgin olive oil I sauteed the diced bacon and two finely chopped garlic cloves. After a little while a couple of spoonfuls of pine nuts and a finely sliced chilli followed.
While this happened I put a pot of salted water on to boil and prepared a large head of broccoli. Once the water was boiling the broccoli went in and cooked until just tender. Scooped out, draining all the water and straight into the frying bacon. The remaining water was brought back to the boil.
A little toss, 2 tablespoons of tomato passata and a splash of extra virgin olive brought the sauce together. No extra salt because the bacon is already quite salty.
Once the water returned to the boil all the pasta went in...yes, it's a lot. The pasta probably boiled for about 5 minutes but just keep tasting it. You don't want that floury taste and it still needs to have a bit of a bite. Then drain well.
Mix in the bacon and broccoli and a handful of good grated Parmesan cheese and there you have it...it's a winner!