Homemade Chestnut Cavatelli with Aubergine, Olive Tomato Sauce
Cavatelli is a classic pasta common in central and southern Italy.
Handmade, usually from durum or soft wheat flour, its hollowed-out shape soaks up sauce, preferably tomato-based, wonderfully. For today’s recipe, I used a small amount of chestnut flour in the mix, which gives an incredibly nutty flavour and smell, and a slightly darker colour.
I love using nuts or wholegrain flours, and add them to the mix whenever I can. This pasta can be made in advance, frozen and stored for months - that’s what we normally do at home.
This is one of Italy’s oldest known pasta shapes, believed to have been born in the Molise region, though each region now has its own slightly different version of it.
In Sicily, we call it “cavati” or “lolli” (the latter being slightly longer) and they are sometimes confused with “strascinati” (meaning “dragged”) because in both cases the method involves the gesture of dragging small pieces of dough with one or more fingers or the back of a knife on a floured, ridged board.
For the sauce, I used a lovely Tomato & Olive Sauce by Mutti - it has a wonderfully chunky texture and rustic flavour and it’s my absolute favourite.
Topped everything with thick slices of fried aubergines. Then showered my plate with salted ricotta because…well, I’m Sicilian and that’s how we roll.
For the pasta (for 2):
Sieved 135g 00 flour and 65g of chestnut flour. It’s important to sieve because chestnut flour can get quite lumpy.
Added a pinch of salt, 1 tbsp olive oil and 100g of cold water. Kneaded everything to a smooth, stiff dough and let it rest, covered with a towel, for 20 minutes.
Divided the dough into equal golf-sized balls and shaped each into a long log, about 1 cm wide. Then cut this into small pieces and dragged each piece with my thumb over a floured ridged board (the same you use for gnocchi).
Repeated this process until all the dough was rolled into cavatelli and arranged them on a floured board.
Now the pasta can be cooked immediately, for about 3-5 minutes in salted water. You will know they are ready as soon as they come floating to the top of the pot and you can drain them with a slotted spoon and transfer directly to the sauce.
For the sauce
Peeled off the skin from 1 large aubergine (this is optional but I prefer it) and cut into 2 cm thick slices. Fried the slices in olive oil and drained on kitchen paper, seasoning with salt.
In a pan, simply warmed up the content a 400g jar of Pasta Sauce with Olives, and when the pasta was ready, transferred it to the same pan and mixed well.
Plated and topped with my slices of fried aubergines and grated “ricotta salata” (a kind of hard ricotta that is used a lot in Sicily, usually paired with fried aubergines). You can use other kinds of cheese as well, or skip entirely for a 100% vegan dish.