Everyone that makes pasta at home and brags about it will tell you that it is sooooooo easy and will always taste better than dried stuff. They are full of shit. Making pasta is time consuming and messy. And frankly, depending on what you are serving it with, dried pasta can be the better match. Orecchiette is one of those pastas, however, where there is a noticeable difference between store bought and home made. Whereas store bought can be unpleasantly tough and rubbery, done right, home made can be light and just chewy enough. So long as you got the time, it’s pretty fun to make. Like playdoh for grown ups. Tastes better too.
And a quick note on sauces. Why is every recipe for orecchiette based on broccoli, chilli and anchovies? Seriously, these little cups are perfect for holding sauce. They should be used with more ragus. We like duck.
4 duck marylands
100g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
handful of dried porcini mushrooms –
rehydrated in ¾ cup boiling water
sprig of rosemary
½ cup red wine
400g tin of tomatoes, peeled and chopped
for the orecchiette
1 cup durum semolina flour
1 cup tipo 00 flour
½ cup tepid water
pinch of salt
To make the ragu, brown the duck skin side down in a heavy based pot until caramelised. Remove and set aside. Gently fry the pancetta in the same pot. When it has softened and released some of its fat, add the carrot, celery and onion. Cook for a few minutes until the onion has melted.
When the porcini have rehydrated, finely chop and add to the pot along with the water they have been soaking in – take care not to tip in the porcini grit that will have settled in the bowl. Add the red wine and cook off the alcohol. Add the tinned tomatoes and rosemary and stir. Season if necessary. Return the duck to the pot and make sure it is covered by liquid. Cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer for an hour or two until the duck meat is falling off the bone. Carefully remove the duck and shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones. Return the meat to the ragu and simmer for another 15 minutes.
To make the orecchiette, sift together the flours and salt. Slowly add the water, mixing until it forms a rough dough ball. Dust a work bench with flour and knead the crap out of the dough until it has loosened up a bit (durum flour is naturally very hard and is tougher to work than regular flour). When the dough is smooth, cover with glad wrap and allow to rest for half an hour.
To shape the orecchiette, roll the dough into snakes about 1cm thick. With a flat knife, cut 1cm lengths from the snake. Roll each piece flat under the blade of the knife by scraping it towards you. To stop the piece curling up, hold it with your finger as the flattened dough comes out from under the knife. Pop the orecchiette inside out and place in a bowl dusted with semolina flour (…you know what? fuck it – just watch this nonna smash them out like a boss).
Cook the orecchiette in plenty of salted boiling water for a few minutes until al dente. When they are cooked, scoop them into the ragu adding some of the cooking water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Toss to ensure they are well-coated and serve with coarsely ground black pepper, chopped parsley and freshly grated parmesan.