Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Polenta Cavatelli

There has definitely been an abundance of pasta, particularly cavatelli, recipes appearing on this blog lately, I am a little obsessed. Maybe it’s how easy fresh pasta is to throw together, or that you can customise, tweak and adjust it to your hearts content, probably a little bit of both. I have had polenta pasta on my mind for a while and have been trying to think it through before delving in head first and possibly wasting perfectly good product. After having some success with masa cavatelli it seemed like the perfect vehicle for polenta, I still had a couple of issues to resolve, polenta takes a while to cook through and what was going to bind the dough together, I didn’t want to rely on wheat flour for structure as I did with the masa. I settled on the idea of precooking the majority of the polenta, letting it set and then making a purée out of it, that would be the base of my dough, uncooked polenta and fine semolina were used to bring the purée together as a dough, I think if I used 100% polenta the cavatelli would be a wee bit dense.

I think I’ve mentioned it before but making too much cavatelli is never a problem, it freezes extremely well and can be cooked from the frozen, just allow a couple more minutes cooking time. The quantities below should be enough for four portions, so any unused raw cavatelli can be arranged on a sheet pan and placed in the freezer until solid and then transferred to a zip-lock bag for more permanent storage.

Polenta Purée
1 part polenta (50g)
5 parts water (250g)
  • Place a rack or trivet on the bottom of a pressure cooker.
  • Pour in an inch of water.
  • Pour the ingredients into a heatproof bowl that will fit in the cooker.
  • Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
  • Allow the pressure to drop naturally.
  • Remove the cooked polenta and when cool transfer to the fridge. Best left overnight.
  • Purée the cooled cooked polenta, I used a fine mouli but a food processor is probably easier, I just don’t own one.

Polenta Cavatelli
2 parts polenta purée (250g)
1 part polenta (125g)
1 part fine semolina (125g)
2% salt (10g)
  • Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Knead to form a ball of dough, add a splash of water if you need to.
  • Wrap tightly in cling-film and rest in the fridge for an hour.
  • Divide the dough into four.
  • Take one portion and cover the remainder.
  • Using your hands, roll out into a thin log, about a pencil width thick.
  • Cut into 1cm segments.
  • Hold the gnocchi board at an angle and place a segment on the top edge. Use the heel of your thumb push down on the dough and towards the bottom edge of the board, the dough should curl up and fall of the board.
  • Arrange competed cavatelli on a sheet pan dusted with semolina.
  • Repeat with remaining dough.

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  • Place the pasta in the water, don’t overcrowd the pot.
  • Cook for 4–5 minutes, they’ll float to the top when cooked.
  • Scoop the cooked cavatelli out with a sieve or similar scooping device.

Sauce (for 2 portions)
Large knob of butter
2 large garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
2 tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and finely diced
1 Lemon, juice and zest
Parsley, finely chopped
2-3 handfuls of rocket (arugula)

  • Before the pasta goes in the water get a sauté pan on a medium heat.
  • Melt the butter gently in the pan, add the garlic just as the pasta is going in the water.
  • Gently sauté the garlic, you don’t want any colour, just cook out the rawness.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water, swirling and stirring through. The starch in the water will help emulsify the sauce and keep it from splitting. Keep adding water and cooking down until you have a nice thick sauce, probably about a third of a cup in total.
  • Just before the pasta is cooked, taste the sauce, add half the lemon juice and zest, adjust the seasoning with salt. Taste and decide if you need the rest of the lemon juice, you may not.
  • Scoop the cavatelli into the sauté pan and toss through the sauce, add the parsley and rocket, toss through and cook for 30–60 seconds more, just enough to wilt the rocket.

Serve with some good sharp hard cheese grated generously over top.

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