On this week’s episode of Chefs at Home, food stylist Veronica Spera makes lorighittas, orecchiette, cavatelli, and capunti.

By Bridget Hallinan
October 26, 2020
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Making pasta from scratch can be pretty satisfying, and if you’ve never taken the plunge before, this week’s episode of Chefs at Home is here to help you out. We’re joined by food stylist Veronica Spera, who demonstrates how to make four different pasta shapes—lorighittas, orecchiette, cavatelli, and capunti—using one dough recipe, by hand, no machine needed. She also whips up a “summer garden” pesto for a pasta salad, talks about her time at pasta school in Bologna, Italy, and is challenged to name as many pasta shapes as she can in just 15 seconds. Read on for her step-by-step methods and follow along with the video above.

Start with the dough

Spera uses both semolina flour—which has a high gluten and protein content—and 00 flour, a more refined white flour. (You can also use all-purpose or bread flour instead of 00.) Just using semolina and water is “probably even more traditional,” she says, but she likes adding 00 for lusciousness, and because it pairs well with the toothsome bite from the semolina.

Combine the two flours on a wooden cutting board and then make a well in the center (be sure the “walls” of the well are pretty even). Pour one cup of water into the well and use a fork to pull in flour from the sides gradually, whisking to evenly combine it in. Once a paste is formed, use a plastic bench scraper to pull more flour toward the center of the well and fold the mixture on itself, using your fingers to get under the pile and fold it up and in. Next, start to knead, going for 10 minutes until the dough has “gotten pretty stiff” but still springs back when poked. If there are any creases on the dough ball, fold them in to prevent it from drying out. Then tightly wrap it in saran wrap and let it rest at room temperature for roughly 20 minutes.

Prepare the fresh pesto

As the dough sits, Spera prepares a “summer garden pesto,” which she says is not a traditional Ligurian-style pesto, but instead uses the ingredients she has on hand. She pickles chopped up rainbow chard stems and sets them aside, and makes the pesto sauce using the rainbow chard greens (blanched and prepped), parsley, basil, arugula, lemon zest, lemon juice, a little bit of cold water, olive oil, salt, black pepper, and Parmigiano Reggiano, combining it all in a Vitamix blender. The prepared sauce goes in the fridge.

How to shape lorighittas

Spera takes the rested pasta dough and cuts it into four pieces, noting how important it is to not let it dry out. She covers it consistently with a towel throughout the process, and also has a spray bottle at the ready.

First up, she uses some to make the lorighittas, a ring-shaped Sardinian pasta she says “looks like iron rings.” You roll the dough into a log, about 1/8-inch thick, and lift up the thinner end, wrapping it around your pointer and middle finger twice. Then connect the end of the dough and pinch it off, ending up with what looks like two rings that are crossed in the front and separated in the back. To form the braided-looking shape, you start by holding the pasta ring on the crossed side and using your fingers to twist at both ends.

How to shape orecchiette

For the orecchiette (a pasta from Puglia), Spera doesn’t roll out the dough as thin as the lorighittas. She’s making these pieces “about the size of a dime,” but you can adjust the size based on the thickness of the rolled-out log. Take a butter knife and cut the log into half-inch pieces—the next step is optional, but she forms the pieces into little balls to make them a more uniform shape. Use the knife to push down on each piece and pull the dough back, and then, pop it up with your thumb.

How to shape cavatelli

Next up is cavatelli (also from Puglia), which is made similarly to orecchiette. Use the same log and roll it to be slightly thinner, using less pressure than the previous pasta. You cut it into pieces and use a more gentle pull with the butter knife when shaping, and “you’re not opening up the piece of dough as much.”

How to shape capunti

Lastly, Spera makes capunti, another Puglian pasta that she loves because they resemble pea pods, with indentations perfect for soaking up sauce. Rolling out the pasta into a quarter-inch log, use your middle three fingers—ring, middle, and pointer—to make indentations on the log and pull them along, using the same dragging technique as the orecchiette (sans knife). Then cut the indented log into pieces and give them another pull with your fingers to create ridges. All that’s left is pinching the ends and giving them a twist, forming the dough into that pea pod shape.

Get the Recipe: Fresh Capunti Pasta

Bonus: Summery pasta salad

To wrap up the episode, Spera takes some capunti she previously made and cooks it for a “summery pasta salad,” combining it in a bowl with a few spoonfuls of the homemade pesto, cooked cannellini beans, the pickled chard stems, lemon zest, and chunks of Parm. She gives it a taste and adds some Maldon salt, black pepper, and a little of the vinegary liquid from the chard stem mixture to finish it all off.

Come back on Monday, November 2 for our next episode of Chefs at Home featuring chef Douglass Williams of MIDA in Boston.