Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Orecchiette with Snow Peas, Asparagus, and Arugula-Mint Pesto




Some may call making homemade pasta a 'labor' of love.  I simply love making pasta by hand.  I find it relaxing, therapeutic.  Plus, the end result is quite fabulous, if I do say so myself.
  
Today, it's all about Orecchiette...

Orecchio=ear

Etto=small

Ergo, orecchiette=small ears

Orecchiette is a type of pasta that originates from the Puglia region of Southern Italy.  Their domed shape makes orecchiette the perfect vehicle for scooping up thicker, chunkier sauces, as they form little cups for collecting the sauce.

The great thing about making orecchiette is that it doesn't require a pasta machine or any fancy equipment. Just your hands and a bit of time and patience.

Orecchiette freezes well.  No need to defrost them before cooking.  Just drop the orecchiette into a pot of well-salted, boiling water.  Once on hand, orecchiette makes for a quick and easy weeknight meal, as fresh pasta cooks quicker than the dried, store-bought variety.  Just a matter of minutes.

Texturally, orecchiette has a nice bite, that toothsomeness you want from a good fresh pasta.  But, that's all about your dough as I've recently learned, about your ratio of eggs to flour to water. 

To form the orechhiette...

Mix the flours (double 00 and semolina), egg yolk(s), and water.  Let rest (30 minutes to one hour).  After sufficiently resting the dough, which allows the gluten to relax and the flours to absorb the water, you'll have a soft, pliable dough to work with.

First, cut off a piece of dough and roll it into a log (as pictured below), about the width of your thumb.  Then, cut the log into pieces (about 1/2" thick).

 
Place a butter knife on the cut end furthest from you, and drag the knife as you roll the piece of dough toward you.  This will form a shape called cavatelli (looks like a hot dog bun).


Then, you unroll the cavatelli and turn it inside out and mold it on top of your thumb to form orecchiette.



Or, you can forgo the last step and simply enjoy the cavatelli...


I paired my orecchiette with a nice springy arugula (aka rocket)-mint pesto, snow peas, pea shoots, asparagus, green garlic, a little Parmesan, and toasted almonds...



Spring peas and their shoots...


Young, green garlic is tender and mild...the stems and bulb are edible.




Simple and delicious -- orecchiette with snow peas, asparagus, arugula-mint pesto, green garlic, Parmesan, toasted almonds...



Orecchiette
serves 6 to 8
2 cups double 00 flour
2 cups semolina
1 cup salted water
1 egg yolk

Mix the flours, water, and egg yolk by hand or with a stand mixer (with the dough hook) until the dough comes together.  Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until soft and pliable, about 5 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.

Line a tray or baking sheet with plastic wrap and sprinkle with a good dusting of semolina.
 
Cut off a piece of dough.  Keep the rest of the dough wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.  Roll out the piece of dough to form a thin log, about a thumb's width.  Cut the log into small pieces ~1/2" thick.

Place the side of a butter knife at the cut end of a piece of dough furthest from you and roll it toward you to form what looks like a hotdog bun (or cavatelli).  Turn the cavatelli inside out and shape over your thumb to form a dome or orecchiette.  Place on the tray lined with semolina.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

At this point, you can let dry and freeze, or cook right away.

Orecchiette with Snow Peas and Asparagus and an Arugula-Mint Pesto
homemade orecchiette
olive oil
2 garlic cloves (and stems if using young, green garlic)
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1" pieces 
large handful of snow peas, ends trimmed, along with the tough string that runs along the length of the pod)
handful of snow pea shoots (optional)
arugula-mint pesto (recipe below)
red pepper flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Suggested garnishes:
lemon zest
toasted almonds
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop in your orecchiette. 

Heat a pan with a couple tablespoons olive oil.  Add the green garlic, asparagus, and snow peas, and saute a few minutes until tender, making sure the asparagus and peas remain somewhat crisp.  When the orecchiette is al dente, transfer with a slotted spoon to the pan with the peas and asparagus.  Add a nice amount of pesto and a little pasta water if needed, and stir until well incorporated.  Add the snow peas shoots, if using, and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Garnish with lemon zest, toasted almonds, and freshly grated Parmesan.  Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Arugula (aka Rocket)-Mint Pesto
makes 2/3 cup
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup mint
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
1/2 cup olive oil, plus a little extra to cover
squeeze of lemon
sea salt
pinch of red pepper flakes

Add the arugula, mint, garlic, and Parmesan to a food processor, and process until fine (or pound in a mortar and pestle for a more rustic look).  With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until well incorporated.  Season with salt, red pepper flakes, and a squeeze of lemon.   

If not using right away, top with a layer of olive oil and refrigerate.

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