Homeownerman Makes Gavva Deals
I’m a terrible speller. I always have been. I believe it to be of environmental cause rather than genetic, though. The second word I learned to spell after my first name was my last name. This was a problem, because it followed no known pattern of spelling for English words, having only one vowel in the middle of 8 other letters, so it started me off on the wrong foot.
But my mother’s family further confused things with the many words that they said that did not look like the words they spelled. For example, at the deli counter one day my mother asked for something that sounded like “bro-zhoot.” My eyes scanned the board behind the counter for a word that looked like what she asked for. When the man handed her the package, he had written “prosciutto” in grease pencil on the wrapper. She frequently would make “pasta fazool” which I loved, but I never saw it on a menu in an Italian restaurant. Years later I found out it was spelled “pasta fagioli.”
Another of her favorites was a type of pasta called “gavva deals.” She would occasionally make balls of dough, press it out in her pasta machine, cut it in circles, and curl them as she rolled them across a small, wooden board with ridges in it. These were boiled and usually served with gravy (which other kids called spaghetti sauce), but sometimes with garlic and broccoli. I was later to learn that the word was not spelled “gavva deals”, but “cavatelli.”
Flash forward to 2017. I have spell check but I still manage to foil it sometimes. And while a lot of this is due to the fact that I am a poor typist, a bigger reason is that I never learned any spelling patterns I could trust.
Today was WifeGirl’s birthday, and when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday dinner, she requested cavatelli and broccoli. Now, if I were your ordinary schlep, I would have gone to the frozen food section of the store and bought a bag of frozen cavatelli (which aren’t bad, I might add, but would not befit the occasion.) Since I am Homeownerman, I hatched a grand plan to make cavatelli and broccoli from scratch to honor WifeGirl on her birthday.
But I realized right off the bat that I didn’t have the cavatelli ridge-making gizmo. So I descended to the Homeownerman cave to make one. Cutting a 6″ piece of ¼” pine, I set it up on my table saw with the blade tilted to 30º and protruding 1/8″ from the table. I then made successive passes of the wood over the blade, moving the fence 2 mm to the right after each pass. The resulting board was washed and treated with olive oil. It resembled fairly closely the gizmo my mother had.
I then made the egg pasta dough using the recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks we have in stately Homeownerman Manner, “Italian Family Cooking (Like Mama Used to Make)” by Anne Casale. It goes like this:
Egg Pasta – Yields about 12 ounces (or when I’ve used the recipe about 30 ravioli, or ~ 11 dozen cavatelli).
1 ¾ cups (8 oz) superfine semolina (I use regular flour)
½ taspoon salt
2 extra large eggs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 Tablespoons of warm water
I use the food processor method, which goes like this:
Place the flour and salt in the food processor fitted with the metal blade, Pulse the machine once for about 3 seconds. Beat the eggs slightly with a fork in a glass measuring cup. Turn the food processor on, and slowly pour the eggs through the feed tube. Run the food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 30 seconds.
With the machine running, pour the 1 Tablespoon of olive oil through the feed tube in a thin tube. With the machine still running, add one Tablespoon of water through the feed tube a few drops at a time. Run the machine an additional 30 seconds. Stop the machine, scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, and run it again until a dough ball forms. If it does not form, add a few drops of water at a time until it does. Stop the machine, remove the metal blade, and then remove the dough. Coat your hands with a little olive oil, and then roll the ball of dough lightly in your hands until it is covered with olive oil. Place in a bowl and cover with a dish towel. Allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
Quarter the ball of dough, and flour each quarter lightly when you are ready to roll it out in the pasta roller. The outside of the dough should have enough flour on it so that it does not stick in the roller. Begin running it through the pasta roller at the thickest setting (mine is “8”). Reduce the thickness with each pass until you get to about 1/8″ to 3/16″ thickness (about a “6” on my machine).
Once you have a good, flat sheet, lightly flour each side again. Cut 1″ circles (I use a 1″ copper slip elbow) which you can get at Home Depot. It was less than a dollar when I got mine; I see that the price of copper has gone up a lot since then.
Flour the texturing gizmo, and roll each of the circles of dough across the gizmo until they are curled into traditional cavatelli shapes. I tried different directions for this, but rolling across the ridges seems to produce the best results.
Cavatelli and Broccoli
One head of Broccoli
One head of garlic
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup of butter
2 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Locatelli cheese to taste
I never made this before, so I did a lot of yelling into the other room to the birthday girl to get her secrets.
Wash the broccoli and break into large florets. Break apart the head of garlic, peel, and cut into thin slices. Heat a deep skillet. When hot, add the olive oil and the butter, stirring to combine them while they are still fairly cold. Add the garlic and sauté until slightly brown. Add the chicken broth and reduce in half.
Bring two quarts of pasta water to a boil and lightly salt. Add the cavatelli and boil for about 12 minutes or until al dente or even a little less cooked. At the broccoli florets and allow them to cook for 3 minutes with the cavatelli.
Scoop the cavatelli and broccoli out of the water and introduce them into the garlic reduction. Mix lightly and quickly until coated. Serve and add grated Locatelli to taste.