Massimo Bruno is something of a legend in the Petits Chefs
kitchen science lab. I first met Massimo at his “Journey to Puglia” in Toronto and I’ve even managed to score two of my favourite recipes off the man himself – popette d’uova and gnudi.
We’ve had some amazing sessions with Massimo where he showed the boys how to make real pizza Margherita and pizza dough from scratch! (twice!) how to make pasta, gnocchi, and panzerotti. This term, Massimo was slated to work with a group of boys who had not worked with him before, we got to repeat one of my absolute favourite sessions – learning how to make handmade cavatelli. On the second last day of school, I couldn’t think of a better way to keep little hands busy 😉
Massimo got working quickly when he arrived – whipping up a ball of soft, smooth pasta dough… 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…
And then the boys got working… making a little well in the Semola flour (though Massimo explained you could use regular flour if you couldn’t find the Semola), pouring in some water, then mixing the water in with either a finger or a fork, incorporating it very very slowly…
Then the best fun – making the cavatelli shapes!
The boys had SO much fun with this! Cavatelli,if you look at them closely, resemble tiny hot dog buns… You make them by rolling the tiny logs with you thumb or finger across the work surface. It made for a very quiet room as everyone concentrated on getting the shapes just right!
(You can see Massimo showing his daughter how to make these in this adorable clip!)
Meanwhile, “Team Sauce” got to work on our fresh tomato and basil sauce…
- 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)
- olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled but not chopped
- 1.5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- About 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or 1 can cherry tomatoes)
- a generous handful of fresh basil leaves (roughly torn) and extra for garnish
- Heap the flour on a work surface or in a large bowl.
- Make a well in the flour, 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.
- The dough will be a little bit crumbly. Gather the dough in your hands and knead until your dough ball is not too dry and not too wet, it should be smooth.
- Knead the dough, making sure to push it on the work surface with the heel of your hand to stretch the it. You should knead this for about 5-10 minutes.
- Cut the dough ball into four to six pieces and roll it out under the palm of your hand to form long, thin logs 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 or work surface to form tiny curls.
- 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 8 minutes on a low heat.
- Add the canned tomatoes and the basil leaves and continue to simmer for 5-6 minutes.
- Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until they float to the surface.
- Toss cooked pasta in the tomato sauce and serve.
Inspired to make more? Check out Massimo’s Product of Italy app for more authentic recipes you can make at home!
We’re so grateful to folks like Massimo who make the Petits Chefs guest chef programme possible. Your generosity, patience and good humour are so very appreciated.
This is the final Petits Chefs post for the school year but check back in September when we’ll have a whole new crew of boys cooking!