Orecchiette are the typical pasta of Puglia, the heel of Italy. Nowadays you can buy them in many supermarkets all over the world, but local women in the region still hand-make them for special occasions or just for Sunday lunch. The most traditional way to serve them is with broccoli raab and anchovies sauce, see footnote below.
400g durum wheat semolina flour
1 pinch salt
220ml water, room temperature or as needed
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Directions Preparation:1hour › Extra time:30min › Ready in:1hour30min
Place the flour on a wooden or marble work surface and make a well in the middle.
Dissolve the salt in the water and pour it into the well, a little at the time, mixing it with the flour. Add as much water as needed to make a sticky but compact dough.
Knead vigorously for about 10 minutes, stretching and folding the dough until it becomes elastic but not too soft.
Wrap in plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. If using the orechiette within a few hours or the following day, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge.
Take one piece of dough and wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap to prevent drying. On a work surface sprinkled with semolina flour, roll out the dough to make a rope, about 1cm thick.
Cut off little pieces about 1cm long. Pick a rounded tip knife. With your index finger, gently hold one side of the dough and with the knife in the other hand gently drag the small piece of dough towards you. Lift up the knife by the end so to get a thicker edge. You'll obtain a small disk of dough, thinner in the centre. Press the disk gently against your thumb and it will curve.
Proceed the same way with the rest of the dough. With time, you'll get faster. Once ready, transfer on a floured surface and sprinkle with more semolina flour. Do not overlap or they will stick.
Let dry for about 30 minutes before cooking. If not using the orechiette right away, let stand at room temperature for 24 hours and then transfer them to a paper bag. Check them from time to time to make sure no mould develops, and use within a week.
Cooking time will depend on dryness. If the orechiette are freshly made, it will take about 5 minutes. If they are a few days old and dry, cooking takes about 8 to 10 minutes. In any case, as always when cooking pasta, the best way to check is to taste.
If you cannot find the durum or semolina "rimacinata", mix regular semolina with plain white flour, about 50% to 50%.