This post is dedicated to Natasha from Come Due Maiali. She was one of the first followers of my blog and is one of those fellow bloggers who has made this journey such a great experience. When I posted about orecchiette with mussels and broccoli almost six months ago, she commented that she’s a huge orecchiette fan and would love to get her hands on wholemeal orecchiette. I then responded that she could always make her own, even though I had never yet made orecchiette by hand. I decided to give it a try myself, and now was the time I finally got around to this. Even though these orecchiette weren’t wholemeal, it was the first time I’ve made orecchiette by hand. They were delicious and I never would have made them without Natasha’s comment. My new “Coming soon…” page is helping me to remember which recipes I’d still like to try and share with you. Next time I’ll try making orecchiette integrali.
Fresh pasta is eaten more in north Italy than in the south, and in the north it’s usually made with eggs and from 00 flour. Fresh pasta from the south is often just flour and water, and there they use semolina flour from durum wheat (semola di grano duro) since that is what grows there. Orechiette are a typical pasta from Puglia, the ‘heel’ of the boot that is Italy. Orecchiette means ‘little ears’ (orecchio = ear; Italians use suffixes like -etta or -ino to make a diminutive). I’ve eaten them fresh a few times at restaurants in Italy and loved them. There are three qualities of orechiette: mass-production such as Barilla or DeCecco, which are OK, smaller production premium ‘artigianali that are better but quite expensive and difficult to find outside Italy, and home-made that are cheap and the highest quality, but of course a lot more work. Home-made orechiette have the best texture. A lot of bite without being chewy.
The ‘official’ way to make gnocchi by hand is by making a complicated movement with a rounded knife. Italian women learn this kind of thing from a young age from their (grand)mother, when all the women gather around a table in the kitchen to make pasta by hand. I used my thumb which is easier, but if you want you can try doing it the official way. This video shows you how. The video is not called “gesti dimenticati” (forgotten gestures) for nothing, since not many people still make orechiette this way. I love that you can tell that many orecchiette must have been made on this very table.
Orecchiette are often served just simply with a fresh tomato sauce, so that’s what I did to try my first batch of home-made orechiette. Home-made orechiette should dry a bit before you boil them, so make them some hours before or even the day before.
150 grams (1 cup) semolina flour (semola di grano duro, preferably rimacinata)
about 75 ml (5 Tbsp) lukewarm water
pinch of salt
For the fresh tomato sauce with basil, 2 servings
700 grams (1.5 lbs) ripe plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
Dust a tray with flour and put the orecchiette on the tray in a single layer to let them dry. Repeat until you have used up all the dough. It is best to let the orechiette dry some hours or overnight, uncovered, before you boil them.
There are different ways to make fresh tomato sauce from scratch. You can remove the skin and seeds and then dice them, but for a fresher taste that uses the juice around the seeds and for an easier preparation, you can also just puree whole tomatoes in the food processor. Just wash and dry them and put them in the food processor.