Remember the joy of playing with Silly Putty as a kid? It was squishy, mushy, sticky, stretchy, bouncy impossible-to-put-down fun! Almost equally irresistible were Play-Doh, glarch, and that sticky gum-like substance my teachers used for hanging up posters. I loved all that stuff.
And it turns out I never outgrew it. Just yesterday as I was making a big batch of cavatelli for dinner, it dawned on me that the reason I enjoy making pasta by hand is it appeals to the little girl in me who loved playing with Silly Putty. It's the same sensation, only pasta tastes better. How's that for a deep thought?
Homemade cavatelli, by the way, is the current favorite pasta around here. I adore it because it's so much fun to make and each individual piece of pasta scoops up just the right amount of sauce. My husband prefers it for its resilient, satisfying chew. We can't get enough cavatelli!
16 ounces semolina
7 ½ ounces warm water
Combine the semolina and water in a large bowl and mix until a rough dough forms. The dough will seem very dry at this point, but resist the temptation to add more water. Transfer to a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for about half an hour.
Cut the dough into eighths. Keeping the remaining dough covered as you work, roll 1 portion of dough into a ½-inch thick rope. If the dough springs back as you roll it, cover it with plastic wrap and let it relax for a few minutes before continuing. Using a table knife, cut a ¾-inch piece of the rope. With the side of the knife, press down on the cut side of the piece of dough, dragging it toward you at the same time. Unroll the resulting little cup of dough. Make more cavatelli with the remaining dough in the same manner. As you work, arrange the cavatelli in a single layer on lightly floured parchment-lined baking trays. Let dry for a few hours.
Makes about 1 ¼ pounds, enough for 4 to 6 main-course servings. Cook as you would any other pasta, in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 10 to 12 minutes, or until al dente. Cavatelli can be turned inside out to form orecchiette (watch me make orecchiette in this video).