Making anything from scratch dough simply makes me happy….period. I ADORE getting my hands in the mixture and working it from start to finish, such a satisfaction when serving the dish. I think the only thing that could make me happier would be to grow my own wheat and mill it into flour and raise my own chickens for the eggs. Second best is what I have, a wheat grower who I know, love, and trust and local chickens from a rockin farm. I’m thrilled with both….
It’s winter and time for those extra cozy, comforts of home kinda foods. For me, pasta is ALWAYS at the top of my go to list. I don’t care if it is stuffed pasta, gnocchi, long pasta, short pasta, lasagna or anything in between, these are all my comfort fare and I love to make them as much as eat them, my passion is totally equal.
Obviously, this love affair comes from my Italian heritage but there is something deeper that drives me as well, something deep in my soul that just isn’t complete or content like when I make pasta. Some might say a past life, others just a passion, but to me, I think I was born an “impastatrice”, or a pasta maker.
Some people are born actors or actresses, singers or songwriters and me, I was born a pasta maker.
This recipe was inspired by my love for ricotta cavatelli. Cavatelli are similar to gnocchi but a bit smaller in size. I adore sweet potato gnocchi and so as I thought of a recipe encompassing both sweet potato and ricotta topped with a sauce consisting of sausage, sage, pancetta, and wild mushrooms. My beloved cavatelli came to mind and from here birthed my version of sweet potato cavatelli with sausage, pancetta, fried sage, and sautéed wild mushrooms. Now that’s comfort food on steroids!
To make cavatelli, you don’t need a cavatelli maker, in fact they can be moody if the dough isn’t just perfect in both texture and size so, I whip out my gnocchi board and crank out some handmade cavatelli in half the time. If you want, you can go one step easier and forget the gnocchi board, just roll out some dough into a ½ inch thick rope, indent a line down the middle and cut in 1 inch segments, this is a perfect alteration.
Honestly, you don’t need a cold winters day to treat yourself to cavatelli….just some great Italian music, a delicious Italian wine, and friends to share it with and this will do the trick on any day.
- For Cavatelli:
- 2-3 sweet potatoes - 1.5 cups puree
- 4.5 cups flour
- 1 egg
- ½ lb fresh ricotta, preferably homemade
- 1 Tsp salt
- For Sauce:
- 2 lbs of pork sausage
- 6 ounces of pancetta, diced
- 8 ounces of wild mushrooms, shitake, baby bella, porcini, or whatever you enjoy
- 15 sage leaves
- truffle oil for frying
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 T butter
- chicken broth
- salt and pepper
- parmigiano-reggiano for serving
- For Ricotta:
- 3 cups organic whole milk
- 1 cup organic heavy cream
- ½ tsp salt
- 1½ T organic white wine vinegar
- For the Cavatelli:
- Preheat oven to 350. Pearce sweet potatoes all over and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 30-40 min or until soft. Pull out of oven and peel and pass through a food mill or ricer into a bowl. Cool completely.
- Combine cooled sweet potatoes, ricotta, egg, and salt
- Place flour on kneading board. Make a well and add the above ingredients. Mix to combine
- Keep kneading until the dough comes together and has a smooth consistency. If sticky, add some flour. Don't over knead dough or it will become too tough.
- Cut off a small chunck and roll it into a rope about ½″ thick.
- Roll rope in some flour before cutting in 1 inch pieces. With a gnocchi board, start at the top and press each piece to make and indentation and then roll down the board. (If you want, you can go one step easier and forget the gnocchi board, just roll out some dough into a ½ inch thick rope, indent a line down the middle and cut in 1 inch segments).
- Toss with flour and put on cookie sheets. Apply more flour if they are a bit "sticky". Let rest and dry about 2 hours.
- For Ricotta:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add all ingredients and let come to a light boil. Cook for 15 minutes as the liquid and solid separate. Remove from heat and pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and let drain until all liquid is gone.
- For Sage Leaves:
- In a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, add truffle oil until bottom is covered and heat. Drop in 5-6 sage leaves and fry until stiff. Remove and place on plate lined with a paper bowl. Cook remaining leaves.
- For sauce:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add sausage. Break up sausage while cooking and salt and pepper. Once done, remove with slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towel.
- Add butter and oil to pan and let melt. Add pancetta and mushrooms and cook until pancetta is done and mushrooms are soft. Add chicken broth if necessary for more liquid. Add back the sausage and stir to combine. Season if necessary. Add some chicken broth to create more of a sauce consistency. Reduce heat and cover.
- To Cook Cavatelli:
- In a large stockpot over medium heat, boil water and add salt. Make water as "salty as the sea", this flavors the pasta.
- Drop them in the water, careful not to overcrowd (cook in 2 batches, if needed). Cook for 7-8 minutes or until al dente.
- Scoop cavatelli out with a mesh spoon into serving bowl and top with sauce. Finish with parmigiano-reggiano cheese and serve immediately.
- Note: You can also refrigerate or freeze them. To cook them frozen, add about 5 minutes to your cooking time.