It’s an addiction. Tonight is the second night in a row that hubs and I have made orecchiette pasta. We had left over sausage from yesterday, and we still had uncooked rapini, so why not? After measuring out the flour and forming the dough, hubs agreed to do the kneading. He considers it a full on workout. I enjoy it, but I’m fighting a cold and it’s probably best that I don’t handle too much of the food, even though it’s just the two of us.
For those of you that are interested in making this easy pasta dough, Mario Batali’s recipe is a good start.
Chris from Alimentari had taught us to knead the dough it into a seamless ball. How long do you have to knead for? Press your finger into the dough. See how quickly it bounces back. If it is slow, continue kneading for a few more minutes and check again. I interpreted it as it should resemble impressions to memory foam – the foam bounces back and regains its original shape.
This dough ball is ready to be wrapped up and left to rest for 20ish minutes. For us, this amount of dough is enough to feed us for dinner only, because it is our main course. We learned in the pasta workshop that Italians treat pasta as the first course, so it is not a large portion. The reason behind serving it as the first course is that it will fill you up so that you do not require a large portion of protein, which is the second course. This dates back to the times when people did not have much money. People relied on what they could farm, which was wheat and beautiful vegetables. The third course would be soup or vegetables. To honour this tradition, hubs and I ate the pasta first, and finished with our arugula salad. We skipped the additional protein altogether.
But I digress. Getting back on topic, we let the dough rest before hubs started rolling out portions of the dough into “ropes”. As I mentioned in my previous pasta post, this was the most difficult part for me. I need more practice. You are supposed to roll with the fingers, spread apart, which is supposed to help to elongate the rope.
Once your piece of rope is ready, start cutting it to marshmallow sized pieces. Keep your remaining dough wrapped so that it doesn’t dry out. Have a lined tray handy if you do not have a lot of counter space to work with. This is for your pasta shapes to be laid out so that they do no stick and clump together.
To create the orecchiette shape, you simply need a butter knife. Place the small piece of dough standing up under your knife, and while applying pressure, pull the knife towards you. Your small piece of dough should be curled, so now you want to gently unroll it over your thumb.
Lay your pasta shapes in a single layer on your tray and you can begin the sauce making.
I should mention that while the dough was resting, we prepared the rapini sauce. If you’ve bought sausages in the casing, this is a good time to start chopping them up. It’s preferable to remove the casing, but we were lazy this time. As a side note, this is when hubs suggested we purchase a meat grinder/sausage maker. The interest in this kitchen gadget originally stemmed from a sausage party he attended. It figuratively and literally was a sausage party – all guys, and everyone brought some type of meat, which went through a meat grinder, and the host provided the sausage casings. The appeal to me is that I could make healthier sausages, using better cuts of meat, less fat (though you do require some fat), and so much less sodium. Again, I am going off topic.
The very first batch we made, with the pasta we made at the workshop, we used honey garlic sausage. I highly suggest staying away from that. It adds a sweetness that doesn’t work that well. We salvaged it by adding other dry spices and some lime juice.
As we approached the end of the dough resting period, we started boiling the water for the rapini and the pasta. Chris had stressed the importance of generously salting the water. We started browning the sausage meat and straining off as much fat as possible. Push aside the meat and add a healthy amount of good olive oil, and turn down the heat. Add fresh minced garlic and let it cook, but not brown. You don’t want to ruin your sauce now, with burnt garlic. This will add an unpalatable bitterness.
Hopefully you have timed everything just right, and your pasta and chopped rapini are ready to be strained and added to the pot with your sauce. Before straining, ensure you reserve two cups of the pasta water to help thicken/bind your sauce if required. Mix well so that every orecchiette pasta is coated with sauce. Add lots of fresh grated parmigiana cheese.