I first met Massimo at a fabulous “Journey to Puglia” dinner at his “hidden” restaurant in Toronto and have since sent many people his way, and returned a few times myself. Going to a supper club is like going to a great big house party where you meet all sorts of interesting people, then you get to go home while someone else cleans up… I’ve even managed to score two of my favourite recipes off the man himself – popette d’uova and gnudi. I was so excited when Massimo expressed an interest in coming to work with the boys and show them how to make “real pizza” – and I knew the boys would be too! We had an amazing session last term where Massimo showed the boys how to make real pizza Margherita and pizza dough from scratch!
Massimo wanted to try pasta from scratch which I was very excited about since I was supposed to be making my own for this month’s Kitchen Bootcamp, cooking pasta and dumplings. I know, I know, it’s cheating a little to have a lesson from an Italian chef but I figured who better to learn from, right? Plus, I figured if the boys could make it, I surely could!
Massimo started out showing the boys how to make a little well in their special Semola flour (though he explained you could use regular flour if you couldn’t find the Semola and pour in some water, then mix the water in with either a finger or a fork, incorporating very very slowly. He didn’t measure anything, telling the boys that a lot of the time, cooking is about how the food feels, looks and smells. I couldn’t agree more… (for those who are interested, Massimo uses about 400mls water for each kilogram of flour used).
After resting the rolls of pasta wrapped tightly in plastic wrap (and… err… being careful NOT to hold them the entire time they are resting in hot little hands), Massimo showed the boys how to roll long strands of pasta and cut them into tiny pieces. Then he showed us how to make the typical shape for cavatelli (little scooped out pasta pieces).
Homemade cavatelli with simple tomato sauce
A simple homemade pasta.
- 250 g fine durum semolina flour
- Approx 100 mls warm water (maybe a little less, maybe a little more - depends on the weather, humidity.. Massimo says you need to make the pasta a few times to get to know the "feel" of the correct consistency)
- About 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled but not chopped
- olive oil
- 1 jar high quality tomato sauce
- Heap the flour on a work surface. Make a well in the flour mound, add most of the water in the well and slowly incorporate the water using a fork or a finger. Incorporate only a tiny amount of the flour by making a circular motion with either the fork or the finger and bringing a little bit of the flour in on each round. When the mixture is too dry add in some more water.
- You will have a dough that is a little bit crumbly. Gather the dough in your hands and knead until you have a dough ball that is not too dry and not too wet. Now, knead the dough, making sure to push it on the work surface with the heel of your hand to stretch the dough. You should knead this for about 5-10 minutes.
- Form small logs with the dough and wrap it in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently fry the garlic.
- Add the tomatoes, add salt and pepper and allow to simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes on a low heat. Add the sauce and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Continue making your pasta: Cut dough logs into 4 pieces and roll under the palm of your hand to create a log that is the thickness of your little finger.
- Line up the thin logs (4-5 at a time) and with a sharp knife, cut tiny pieces, about 1cm long.
- With your thumb, drag the pieces of dough across a wooden cutting board to form tiny curls.
- Cook in boiling, salted water until they float to the surface.
- Toss cooked pasta in the tomato sauce and serve.
Well gosh! We made our own pasta! With a sprinkle of parmesan and some fresh basil, this was a lovely simple comfort meal on a cold autumn night. I know the boys loved it because some of them ate their portions on the way home from school 😉 One of my little chefs even tried to make his own pasta when he got home using regular flour – now that’s what I call motivated 🙂
Thank you so much Massimo for your time and patience with these guys – it’s always a pleasure having you and we can’t wait to see what you come up with the next time you come!
If you live in Toronto and would like details about Massimo’s Italian Supper Club, click here.
These two recipes are so easy that I am submitting them to the HostelBookers Backpacker recipes contest. I can’t think of a better way to make new friends in a Hostel kitchen than to make pasta and pasta sauce from scratch!