I don’t think it matters if you grew up Italian-American or not. Everybody knows “Cavatelli & Broccoli.” Regarding the way we are going to prepare it here, I’m asking all of you to step outside your cavatelli and broccoli comfort zone!
I’ve seen this dish prepared in all different ways. Some like to add chicken stock to it and make it really soupy. I’ve even seen sherry added. And that’s all good…but not for me. And don’t even get me started with adding chicken stock to everything. It’s a pet peeve of mine!
The way I like my “gavadeal” (if you are from Jersey) & Broccoli is just straight up, cavatelli, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, pasta water, and broccoli. Garnish with some grated cheese and red pepper flakes and that’s it!
But!.. I have been getting into homemade whole wheat pasta lately and I have to say I love the taste and texture. So this rendition is anything but traditional because we will be using eggs as well. Cavatelli is traditionally made with just water and semolina, no eggs. Ricotta cavatelli is popular too. So, why did I come up with this?
Well, we need to have healthy foods in our diets along with the not-so-healthy comfort food we all enjoy and love. While I may not be satisfying the gluten-free and anti egg audience with this dish, I decided to make this cavatelli-shaped pasta with a desire to have protein and good fiber in it. I make a bunch of it and eat it through the week knowing that with every portion I’m getting protein, fiber, complex carbs, healthy fat, and great nutrition from the broccoli. Not to mention the taste of homemade whole wheat pasta is just incredible!
About whole wheat cavatelli
As far as I’m concerned, whole wheat pasta is delicious! The color, the more intense flavor, and the sturdy chew it gives while eating it! It may slowly be taking over as my favorite pasta. I can’t say the same for bread and pizza dough though. I love my Caputo 00 for those items.
Whether you are making bread or pasta, doing it with 100% whole wheat flour can be a challenge. It feels like sand in your hands instead of that baby powder feel of beautiful Caputo 00. But, if there’s a will there’s a way! I have found adding a little more fat (olive oil) and letting the dough rest overnight helps. This way all that moisture from the eggs and olive oil has a chance to penetrate that stubborn whole wheat grain.
Also, when I’m not using imported flour from Italy, I go straight to King Arther. King Arther is a great company with high-quality products. In this case, we are using King Arther “white” 100% whole wheat flour. Don’t let the “white” fool you. It still feels like sand lol!
Part of being successful with homemade pasta is not only having patience while making it but when to pull it out of the boiling water as well. Regarding this cavatelli recipe, these little dumplings do not cook quickly like most homemade pasta recipes. Once they float to the top they will require more cooking depending on some factors. I will explain further down. Just giving you a heads up!
So let’s get started . . .
For the pasta.
Do yourself a favor. Break from tradition and use a stand mixer with a dough hook to get started on this pasta. You will eventually have to knead it with your hands at the end. But the stand mixer muscles that stubborn whole wheat pretty well so you don’t have to.
In the mixing bowl, you can put all of your pasta ingredients in at once. Flour, eggs (plus one yolk), salt, and extra virgin olive oil.
Start the mixer off on slow and slowly increase speed.
The dough will start forming crumbs and then larger pieces. Like starting all pasta it may seem a little too dry. Just keep mixing it until it starts to come together.
If there are some smaller crumbs or dry flour that refuse to mix in, we can cheat a little and add a tiny bit of warm water one teaspoon at a time to get things going. You will see that just a tiny bit of water will make a huge difference. We do not want to add any more water than just a tiny bit because your pasta will become inferior and not hold up when cooking it.
Once your stand mixer did all it can do, remove all the contents of the bowl onto a clean surface. Bring all of the contents together with your hands and get it all into one dough ball. It’s not going to look pretty at this point.
Now just keep kneading and kneading and kneading. Using the “heel” of your hand, start from the back of the dough ball and push down and forward over and over folding the dough onto itself for about a good 10 to fifteen minutes. Just keep kneading until you start to get a nice silky feeling dough. Form it into a ball, wrap tightly with saran wrap and let sit in the fridge overnight or for eight hours.
After resting, take the pasta out of the fridge and let it sit for about an hour so you’re not working with it ice cold.
You will see the dough is now nice and soft and will behave pretty much like normal pasta dough.
Have a little all-purpose flour handy for dusting, only if needed.
Place the dough on a clean surface and form it into a log or a loaf type of shape. With a knife cut off about an inch and a half thick piece from either end. Now take that piece you just cut and with both hands starting from the middle and slowly moving your hands apart create a long narrow cylinder by rolling back and forth with your palms.
The cylinder should be about ½ inch in diameter the length is not relevant.
On a wooden or textured surface, with a small sharp steak knife, cut a tiny ¼ inch thick medallion off the rolled dough. Place the blade of the knife on the far end of the medallion, tilt the knife backward so that it is flat against the dough, press down and slide the knife across the dough towards you. You will see the dough will curl up around the knife. At the end, you can loosen up on the pressure creating an “open crevice” piece of pasta. If you keep pressure on the whole time you will create more of a “tight” closed cavatelli. These little nuances make a difference with cooking time, texture, and how much sauce they hold.
Repeat until all your dough has been converted into cavatelli! Set aside on a cutting board until needed.
Cut your broccoli
Notice I did not say “chop your broccoli?” I love preparing the broccoli by surgically cutting the florets from their thick bitter root base. From there I leave the little bite-sized ones exactly as is. For the larger florets, I like to cut them in half so they still have a little “tree-like” shape. It’s beautiful to look at a platter of cavatelli and broccoli done this way. Why chop this good-looking vegetable into little pieces? Plus I feel it’s the “Italian way” to keep things such as vegetables closest to their original state. It’s pure beauty!
Once your florets are cut, put a large pot of water on the stove about ¾ full. Salt it real nice. Put the flame on high.
Ever so gently sautee your whole smashed garlic cloves
While you are waiting for the water to boil, smash about 7 garlic cloves with the side of a chef’s knife. It all depends on your comfort zone here with garlic. I like giving it a good whack almost to the point where the garlic turns into instant paste but is still intact.
Add your extra virgin olive oil and smashed garlic cloves to a cold small sautee pan. Turn the heat on medium and when the garlic starts to saute turn the heat on low. Let the garlic cloves slowly cook this way until they turn a light brown color then shut off the heat and let them sit in the warm oil. Add the red pepper flakes to the oil, stir and set aside.
Putting it all together
When your water comes to a profuse boil, add all of your cavatelli. When the cavatelli float to the top check one. Most likely they will be way too hard. It may vary, but I estimate they will need to cook another 7 minutes.
Once the cavatelli float, cook for 4 minutes and then add the broccoli florets into the pasta water with the cavatelli.
Cook for another 3 minutes. Just before straining the pasta and broccoli, add a full ladle off the top of the pasta water into the sautee pan with the garlic and oil. Turn the heat on medium under the sautee pan.
Strain your pasta and broccoli gently in a large colander.
Add a little bit of the sauce from the sautee pan to the bottom of your favorite platter.
Add the cavatelli and broccoli to the platter.
Now evenly pour the contents of the sautee pan over the top of the pasta reserving just a little bit.
Toss everything gently on the platter.
Add the rest of the sauce over the top.
Garnish with sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, grated cheese, more red pepper flakes, and maybe drizzle a little more EVOO. It’s up to you.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Thank you for visiting my blog!
For the pasta
14oz of 100% “White” whole wheat flour
4 medium-size eggs plus 1 additional egg yolk
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
For the sauce
Two medium-sized stalks of broccoli
2 1/2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
7 garlic cloves (smashed)
2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper
1 ladle full of pasta/broccoli water
For the garnish
Sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, red pepper flakes, grated cheese, EVOO to taste.