i appreciate making pasta myself in that the fresh product cooks in no time compared to the dry store-bought kind and the excess can be dried and stored for later use. if you've never made your own, i'd suggest starting with a small amount of dough to get the hang of it and the next time around going for a larger amount. you can make pasta with the use of a pasta machine if you have one, but making it by hand is not difficult at all. in fact, this recipe is a no-machine one.
while there are countless traditional shapes you can make without the aid of a machine, today's post is for the classic rounded and indented one in the shape of an ear, called orecchiette, a very pugliese type shape. the version i making here is a bit different, shape-wise, in that it is more rustico (rustic). this means, it is a little thicker than the ones you buy at the grocer and the shape is more like a true ear rather than a round disc with thicker edges one commonly sees. when cooked, these "ears" have bite to them and are quite filling. the indentations in them provide a perfect little container to hold the sauce you serve them with.
the dough for the following pasta is composed of 3 flours, some salt and water; no eggs involved here today. its yellow colour comes from durum semolina flour (aka pasta flour or farina di grano duro, easily found at the supermarket) which also provides a denser texture to the finished pasta. sometimes i will just use durum semolina flour, salt and water to make the dough; this is really optional. often the flour used is the harder-to-come-by italian "zero-zero" (00) with a lower protein content than all purpose. to approximate this you can use equal proportions of all purpose and cake flour. of course, just all purpose will work, too.
i'm not really giving exact amounts here, only ratios. you have to experiment. it is easy and you'll not have a problem. so go for it!
orecchiette fresche e semplice
southern italian hand-made eggless pasta
1 part durum semolina (pasta flour)
0.5 part all purpose flour*
0.5 part cake flour*
OR 1 part all purpose flour
OR only durum semolina
salt, to taste
warm water, enough to make a stiff but malleable dough
place the flours and some salt in a bowl and mix it together.
add water little by little and mix until you get a stiff but workable and soft dough. if you add too much water, add a bit more semolina. the softer your final dough is, the more difficult it will be to cut into neat rounds.
knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
cover and let rest for minimum 1 hour. this is essential; do not skip. once rested, the dough will be much easier to work with and much more malleable.
cut the rested dough into 1/3's or 1/4's. take one piece and cover the rest so it doesn't dry out.
flour your board and roll out the dough into a rope about 1/2" to 3/4" thick.
on a well-floured surface, cut the rope into discs which are about 1/8" thick. separate them as you cut.
take one and place it flat on its cut surface making sure it is well floured. with a finger, press into the disc of pasta dough and press and pull towards you.
the dough should form into a little ear. the first ones may not be so perfect; don't worry. it takes a bit of practice. note that the traditional way to do it is to place the disc in the floured palm of one hand and press it with the finger of the opposite hand. some people also use a blunt rounded knife (like a butter knife). it's up to you; i prefer this method.
place them on a floured tea towel to dry out as you form the rest of the orecchiette.
once all finished, let them dry for an hour or so.
cook them in well salted water until they are al dente. they will float to the top as an indication they are ready.
these are chewy pasta so they won't be all soft and mushy. taste every few minutes to see if they are cooked enough for you. drain them and serve with your favourite sauce or use them in a salad with tomatoes, basil and ricotta and olive oil, salt and pepper.