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Friday, January 15, 2010

Baked Ricotta Cavatelli in a Mascarpone Cheese Sauce

Back in October when Bob's and my families came to Chicago for my thesis seminar, we went to Carmine's restaurant. Carmine's is located on one of the hottest streets in Chicago, Rush Street, very close to what is referred to as "viagra triangle." I don't need to get into that, but basically it's a premium location.

The restaurant has a nice ambiance. The first floor has a bar area that is louder than the table-only upstairs. Our party of 10 was seated upstairs away from the windows, but I can imagine that a table by the windows would give you an incredible view of Rush Street.

I ordered the most delicious pasta dish called the "Cavatelli al Forno," described as "Homemade ricotta dumplings simmered in marinara with imported cheeses, topped with mozzarella and baked." The cavatelli had a texture almost gnocchi-like; dense but soft. I loved everything about this dish. It was super rich, but unbelievably tasty. Coincidently, I had a recipe for ricotta cavatelli saved on my laptop desktop for quite some time before this visit to Carmine's, and this was just the push I needed to try making it at home. I decided to try to recreate the entire dish, or at least my interpretation of it.

I've never made my own pasta before, and although this is a tad different than most homemade pastas, I really enjoyed the experience! Shaping the cavatelli took quite a bit of time, but it was fun. This was a really delicious dinner! It's very rich, filling, and satisfying. My only problem was that the cavatelli recipe doesn't call for salt. I figured this was not a problem given the ricotta and the fact that the pasta is bathed in cheesy tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella, but I thought that the actual cavatelli themselves were a little bland. A sprinkle of salt into the dough would have made a big difference, so I've added it to the recipe below.

I definitely recommend this dish!

Handmade Italian Ricotta Cavatelli

3 cups (1 pound) all-purpose flour
1 pound ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt, if desired (this recipe suggests 1/2 teaspoon)

1. Put 2 1/2 cups of the flour into a bowl, make a well in the flour, and add the cheese and eggs (add salt at this point if desired). Gradually work the mixture together, adding more flour if necessary, to make a soft but not sticky dough.

2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is smooth. Let the dough rest at room temperature, covered with an inverted bowl or wrapped in plastic, for 30 minutes.

3. Form the dough into a round and cut into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time (cover the remaining dough with an inverted bowl to keep the dough from drying out), on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rope 1/4-inch in diameter (mine was closer to 1/2-inch).

4. With a knife, cut the rope into 1/2-inch pieces (mine were closer to 1-inch). With your index and middle fingers held together, gently press down on each piece, beginning at the top and moving down toward the bottom, dragging your fingers toward you and causing the pasta to roll over on itself.
Will look something like this:

5. Transfer the formed pasta to a lightly floured jelly-roll pan and let dry at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil.

6. Salt the water, and add the pasta. Cook until the cavatelli are al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. They are done when they float to the top (mine took closer to 4 minutes or even less!) Drain and proceed with recipe below, add your favorite sauce, or freeze.

Source: Adapted from FoodNetwork

Baked Ricotta Cavatelli in a Mascarpone Cheese Sauce

1 batch Handmade Italian Ricotta Cavatelli (see above)
~23 ounces of your favorite pasta sauce (I used Prego Traditional)
8-ounces mascarpone cheese
grated Parmesan cheese
8 slices mozzarella cheese, or enough to cover the dish
olive oil for greasing baking dish

Preheat oven to 400F.
1. In a large saucepan, melt mascarpone cheese over medium heat. Stir in pasta sauce. Season with a little Parmesan cheese, if desired.

2. Add ricotta cavatelli to sauce and stir to coat. Transfer to a 13 x 9-inch baking dish that has been lightly greased with olive oil. Top with mozzarella slices.

3. Bake until cheese is melted, approximately 20 minutes.

Source: Inspired by the Cavatelli al Forno at Carmine's


  1. Oh Wow! That does look wonderful. I'm always impressed by home made pasta and this looks just great!

  2. ... wow. Seriously. That is wicked impressive and smothered in cheese. I'm copying down this recipe right now.

  3. That is awesome! I've always wanted to make my own pasta!

  4. I'm drooling - this looks amazing! I really want to try making my own pasta this year too!

  5. Oh My Gosh...just went to Carmines the other night and had this...FABULOUS! I am definitely going to try this recipe!


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