Sunday, March 13, 2011

Orecchiette


Over the weekend, I had dinner with some girlfriends at Barbara Lynch's Sportello. The food was totally delicious and made me want to cook more Italian food, particularly fresh pasta. The entree I had at the restaurant featured orecchiette, which is an "ear-shaped" semolina pasta, and I decided to try making it myself today. I consulted The Silver Spoon for the recipe, and got distracted in the gnocchi section along the way...did you know that there is such a thing as rice gnocchi? Bread gnocchi? Ricotta gnocchi? There are 18 different gnocchi recipes in this book! I can't wait to try some of them.

Anyway, back to the orecchiette. On paper, it's a pretty simple pasta to make - you don't need a pasta roller or any other special tools. The shaping is a little tricky though. I consulted some YouTube videos and watched Italian mothers making it look like the easiest thing ever. Then I attempted in vain to do what they did, gave up quickly and came up with my own way. I ended up with uneven, misshapen orecchiette, but whatever. They tasted good, and it doesn't really matter if they look perfect.

We ate the orecchiette with mushrooms and peas, cooked with a little garlic, pepper, thyme, and parsley, and topped with some olive oil and parmigiano-reggiano. I'm focusing on the pasta here, so I'm not going to give any more details about the sauce/topping. A number of sauces would work well, so play around with the pairings and see what you like.


Orecchiette
Adapted from The Silver Spoon
Makes 4 servings

The pasta came out a tad chewy when I cooked it, but I'm pretty sure I know how to fix that for next time. I'm writing the recipe up including the fixes.

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Generous 1/2 cup semolina
Salt
1 cup warm water

Combine the flour, semolina, and a pinch of flour in a mound on a clean countertop. Make a well in the center, and add 1/2 cup warm water. Mix the flour into the water with a fork, and use your hands as the dough starts to form. Add more water as needed to make a firm dough. I used a little bit over 3/4 cup of water total. If the dough becomes sticky, add a bit more semolina. Knead dough until smooth, elastic, and pliable, about 8-10 minutes. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Cut dough into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope, covering remaining pieces with a damp towel as you work. Cut a 1/2-inch-long piece off the rope with a sharp knife, turn cut side down on the counter, and flatten with the knife. Flip the piece of dough over the tip of your thumb and mold to form a shell/ear shape. Place finished orecchiette on a baking dish lightly dusted with semolina while you shape the remaining pieces.

Cook orecchiette in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 5-7 minutes.

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