In some parts of Italy this pasta is also known as gnocchetti or seashells. The rolling and forming of the pasta is not done for aesthetic reasons. It is practical in that the ridges and/or small pockets in the cavatelli help to pick up and hold the sauce.
Ingredients (4 appetizer portions)
- 1⁄2 cup of unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups of grano duro (durum wheat flour)
- 3/4 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
- 1/2 cup or more of hot water
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
Use a fairly large mixing bowl. Put the flour and salt into the bowl. Add the vegetable oil. Make a well and form a pool of a little hot water. Add the baking powder and let it foam. Mix with a fork to combine. Add more water a little at a time as necessary. When the flour comes together start using your hands.
Mix thoroughly with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball. If the dough feels stiff, add a bit more hot water. The dough should be quite soft and a bit spongy. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead for 4 to 5 minutes.
Cut of a piece of the dough (about the size of a plum), keeping the rest covered with a towel. Stretch and roll this piece between your hands to form a tube-like shape. Place the dough on your work surface and, with a very light amount of pressure, roll your hands over the dough to stretch and thin it out. Continue until you have used all of the dough.
Cut the pasta tubes into small pieces. Roll the pieces down over the tines of a fork, with some pressure, to form the cavatelli.* The pasta is now ready for cooking.
Cook the cavatelli in plenty of boiling salted water for about 4 minutes. Test with your teeth. They should be cooked through but with a little resistance to the teeth. Because they are made without eggs, the consistency is different than that of pasta made with eggs.
Drain well. Put them in a large serving bowl. Pour the sauce over them and mix well.
* If you are lucky enough to have a cavatelli attachment to your pasta machine, the work is faster. You just feed the tube of dough between the rollers while turning the handle. The machine forms and cuts the cavatelli, ready for the boiling water.