Orecchiette pasta from Puglia in the south of Italy is traditionally made with semolina and water, it can however be made with white bread flour which, although slightly different, gives excellent results.
When cooking pasta always use 2 pans – one large pot to cook the pasta, and a sauté pan for your sauce, which should be heating through while the pasta is cooking. Take the pasta from the pot to the sauce, and let it cook in the sauce for at least a quarter of the time that it was cooking in the water. We serve our orecchiette with a pork sausage, fennel & broccoli sauce.
Time: 30 minutes + 1 hour resting
Photography: Safia Shakarchi
Season: Year Round
180g 00 pasta flour
180g fine semolina
165g warm water
360g strong white bread flour
170g warm water
To make the dough mound the flour and semolina (if using) on a clean work surface or in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle large enough to hold the water. Pour the water into the well and use a fork to gradually bring the flour into the water until it starts to thicken and form a paste.
At this point add the salt to the paste and continue to mix, gradually bringing in the rest of the flour until a rough dough forms. Knead the dough for about five minutes until it bounces back when you poke it with your finger, and the surface is smooth. Rest the dough, wrapped in clingfilm or a clean, reusable plastic bag for 1 hour.
After an hour, unwrap the dough and cut it into 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, and keeping the rest covered to prevent it drying out, roll the dough out into a rope about 1.5cm thick.
Using a table knife cut off a nugget of dough about 1.5cm long and position it on your work surface directly in front of you. Hold the knife level to the work surface with the long edge of the blade at a 45-degree angle down towards the work surface pointing away from you.
With your dominant hand on the handle of the knife place the fingertip of your index finger of your other hand half way along the blade. Now push that section of the blade down into the nugget of dough so your fingertip is applying pressure through the blade down into the pasta. Start to drag the knife towards you so that the dough starts to curl around the blade.
When you are about three quarters of the way across the piece of dough slide your index finger forward onto the curl of dough pushing it down into the work surface to stop it from moving and continue to pull the knife towards you. You should be left with a small tightly curled disk of dough. Now pick up the curl and invert it, turning it inside out, gently unravelling the edges to form the traditional dome shaped orecchiette.
Leave the pasta to dry on a clean baking tray lightly dusted with flour while you make the rest of the orecchiette. Repeat the process until all the dough is used up. Once all the pasta is shaped, leave the dough uncovered at room temperature to dry for 30 minutes to an hour.
— cook’s notes
Pasta water is liquid gold. Always add some to your sauce when you add the pasta, even if you think you don’t need it. The starch in it will emulsify with your sauce and make it seem richer and silkier as it cooks together.