Saturday, September 08, 2007

Cavatelli alla Norma

We were in Sicily on a lovely villa holiday earlier this week -- the last stragglers are only returning to rather less sunny England today, but I reluctantly left on Tuesday to immediately head up north to Newcastle for my first scientific conference, where I learnt very cool zoological facts, e.g. birds can sleep with one hemisphere of their brain at a time. However, science aside, today back in slightly grey Cambridge I tried to recall the heady days of Sicily by cooking the wonderfully simple and yummy home-made pasta dish we were taught at a cooking class on Monday! Such intense solo cooking effort seems to me to only be quite worth it if you record it for posterity...

Making cavatelli reminds me a lot of making pork and lettuce dumplings with Mum and my sisters back in the days, and I think as a cultural event it is pretty much an identical thing. Simple food, fun shapes (I always used to end up making rather oddly shaped dumplings which I would have to search for in the cooking pan afterwards to claim) and the womenfolk sitting around chatting seems to be the idea. It's good fun and I see that generations everywhere are bemoaning the fact that nobody seems interested in this kind of food making anymore. But I like it so much I even do it whilst listening to Radio 4 instead of chatting!

The wonderful Sicilian lady who taught us to make this uses only flour and water in her pasta, without the eggs that they use up North. Just add water in parts and knead (tearing the dough seems to be important) until smooth and shiny, then leave to rest...

Then roll the dough into little sausages and chop small pillows off them.

And use your thumb to squidge each little pillow into a curvy shell-like shape - a cavatelli!

Make as many as you are feeling hungry for.

The sauce is simply fried aubergines and blanched/peeled/chopped tomatoes with a little garlic and basil and seasoning:

Cook the cavatelli, add some grated ricotta salata, and enjoy...

Preferably, of course, from the terrace of a real Sicilian villa overlooking the clear blue Mediterranean. (It will still taste nice if you eat it in a Cambridge student room though!)