Winter has arrived in Melbourne and we are slowly but gradually waking up from worldwide lockdowns. Baking and making pasta has occupied much of the time I have spent at home, as well as starting an exercise routine using weights and the stairwells in my apartment. After all, when there is baking and pasta making, there is also a lot of eating! The stairs were terrible for when I broke my ankle last year but have been great for exercising. And having the oven on most of the time has made the house warm and toasty for this cold time of the year. Those of you who know me personally or who follow me on social media will know that the last month has been a difficult one with the sudden passing of my dear mamma. I won’t dwell on that in this post; I will dedicate a future one to her when I can bring myself to write about it. All I can say is that I miss her terribly, especially every day at around 4pm when I would call her and speak to her in dialetto, our dialect.
Today I will be sharing one of my favourite non-vegetarian pasta sauce dishes. I eat very little meat (and fish) for environmental and ethical reasons, usually once a week, and a bit more so in winter. My local butcher Matt from the Butcher’s Block in Clifton Hill makes the best sausages at the back of his shop. I love the pork and fennel sausages he makes as well as the Mediterranean lamb. I love to break the sausages into chunks and turn them into a pasta sauce. Apart from the sausages, this is a pantry ingredient dish with peas and tomatoes. It is nothing fancy but thoroughly delicious, especially when you add chilli flakes and a hint of powdered cinnamon. Frozen peas are the only frozen vegetable I use; they are so convenient and the baby ones are really very good. I always have a bag or two in the freezer. They are great with ricotta (replace the usual spinach with peas to make a filling for a savoury pie); in a braise with some ham or pancetta (this was one of my mamma’s signature dishes); cooked with garlic, olive oil and a splash of white wine until they are soft and mushy (then eaten with potato mash); and with tinned tomatoes. I mean, how good are frozen baby peas?!
I made my own cavatelli for this dish, using semolina flour and water. Cavatelli are a traditional Sicilian pasta shape and they look very even because I have a hand cranked cavatelli rolling machine (the brand is Miss Peppa, made in Italy) that spits out cavatelli quickly and evenly. They can also easily be made by hand using a gnocchi board to make the ribbed contour which catches sauce, but the machine is a bit quicker. Speaking of pasta making, I started cooking classes again this weekend. I have missed them terribly during lockdown, and I am happy that I will again be cooking in my home with Italian food-obsessed new-found friends (which is how I like to think of people who come along). The class size has decreased to four people, to allow for adequate social distancing. This makes my business model slightly thin, but I am happy to wear that until restrictions are relaxed and we can again have up to eight people. I have had to stop a few classes (the biscotti and cannoli making class; bespoke lunches and pastry-making classes) where the appropriate physical distancing rules would not be able to be maintained, but the rest (Pasta 101; both Pasta Sauces classes; Let’s make gnocchi class; Apple strudel masterclass) will work well in the space.
If you would like to see what classes I have available, click here to go to my cooking class page. I will be adding more classes over the next few weeks. Apart from participants being more spaced out in my dining room/kitchen, we will be washing our hands a lot and I have purchased more equipment so that we do not have to share anything that cannot be thoroughly washed with hot water and detergent. It will still be lots of fun I promise!
My tour of Puglia with Southern Visions Travel in May 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic but I have new dates for the start of October 2021. This is far enough into the future that I am confident that borders will be open, we will be able to travel safely (and hopefully be vaccinated against COVID-19). I cannot wait to return to Italy! Here are some photos of my 2019 tour of Southern Puglia where some of the tour participants are (quite appropriately) making pasta with semolina flour (although they were making Apuglian orecchiette rather than Sicilian cavatelli). And a few more photos of the beauty that is the Salento (which is the most southern part of Puglia).
Much love and virtual hugs to all
Cavatelli with sausages, peas and cinnamon
400g dried or fresh cavatelli pasta
3 pork and fennel sausages
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 tin (440g) good quality peeled tomatoes (eg Mutti)
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
good pinch of dried chilli flakes
2/3 cup frozen peas
grated parmesan cheese to serve
fresh parsley or mint leaves, chopped, to serve
Remove the casings from the sausages and break up the meat into chunks. Add a glug of olive oil to a medium-sized frypan on medium-high and add the sausage pieces. Cook for about 8 minutes until the meat has cooked through, stirring every minute or so, then add the wine. Let that cook off for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle on the cinnamon, the chilli flakes and the tin of tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium low and allow to simmer before adding the peas. Stir them through then cook for another ten or so minutes. If the sauce starts to look a bit thick, dilute it with a bit of pasta cooking water (see below).
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook until just before it is done to your liking. Set aside half a cup of cooking water before draining the pasta in a colander. Add the drained pasta to the frypan with the sauce, and allow it to cook on medium heat for another minute, stirring the contents of the pan so that the sauce covers the pasta, and adding a bit of the cooking water that you have set aside if needed. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.
Serve sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese and some fresh parsley or mint leaves.