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Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Orecchiette

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Today, I write my blog entry with very mixed feelings. My recipe, Orecchiette, which I'll talk about in a minute, was delicious. The sad part is this is the last pasta in the chapter. We will tomorrow be moving on to Risotto.

I have loved this pasta chapter. Every recipe I have made I have really enjoyed. Some of the dishes really suprised me, and others turned out exactly as I imagined them tasting. There have been very simple and quick pastas, and others that have been quite time consuming. But whether quick or not, I have enjoyed every single one.

Today's pasta is Orecchiette. Marcella explains that this recipe comes from the Apulia region, which is the region that extends over the heel and half of the instep of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. This region has a tradition of making home-made pasta. But the pasta they make is different than that you find in the Emilia-Romagna region. Here, the pasta is made with water instead of eggs, and the flour is mostly of a hard-wheat variety. This means the dough will be chewier and firmer. To match well with this more rustic pasta, they use stong-flavored sauces.

Orecchiette is the most well-known pasta from this region, and it means "little ears". This is a hand-shaped dough.

The dough is made of a combination of semolina and all-purpose flour. Add salt and warm water, and that's it. The dough is mixed, then kneaded for a full 8 minutes. I found it extremely important to be sure and knead for the full time. I even kneaded for a little longer. It took that much time for the dough to obtain the correct texture. The dough then rests a short while. When you're ready to form your shapes, you pull off a piece of dough about the size of a lemon. You then roll that into a sausage-shaped roll, about 1/2" thick. You slice off very thin pieces, place the piece in the cupped palm of one hand, and with the other hand you press and twist your thumb, making a shape that resembles a little ear, or more descriptive, a small mushroom cap. The edges are thicker than the middle. You continue to form these little ears, and here's where it gets time-consuming. The recipe made about 330 little ears. That took some time to make them all, and I was quite unhappy that my back was giving me problems that day.

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Marcella says the best sauce for this pasta is the Brocolli and Anchovy Sauce. That's what I made. I loved the sauce-very interesting, complex flavor with the anchovy. But what I really loved was the pasta. Chewy, firm, wonderful texture. I will most definately be making this dough again. I will be asking Marcella for her input. When I don't have time to form all of those ears, I would like to put this dough through my pasta machine. Would this be an appropriate dough for a thick-cut noodle like tagliatelle?

If you're at all interested in learning more about the art of making pasta, buy this book. Marcella does a wonderful job of explaining all aspects-the doughs, the shapes, what sauce to pair with what pasta, etc.

It's now time to move on to the next chaper-Risotto!

Comments (1)

330 little cap. Impressive!

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