If you can eat gluten, I would suggest using regular flour to make cavatelli. That said, this is a great non-gluten dish. Fava bean flour adds a different element to the pasta — it’s less like pasta, almost like hardened fava bean paste — and of course it adds the flavor of fava without any actual visible fava beans. This recipe is pretty simple and takes about 2 full hours to complete, from mixing the dough to plating a hot steamy mound of cavatelli smothered in nettles.
I used Bob’s Red Mill Fava Bean Flour. I actually couldn’t find it at any stores in the Bay Area including Berkeley Bowl, the Pasta Shop or Andronico’s. So I ordered it from Amazon.com. A 4-pack costs around 30 bucks. So it’s not cheap.
You will need (feel free to scale this however you want):
- 630 grams fava bean flour + flour to dust with
- a pinch of salt — maybe 2 teaspoons
- 180 grams water (preferably from EB Mud)
- a stand mixer
- about a pound or more of nettles (more is better because they cook down a lot)
- 2 cloves garlic
- more salt
- ricotta salata or fresh ricotta — whichever you prefer
- oil, about 2 tablespoons
The following is a rough description of how I made the cavatelli. I would go really low on the water to start and add more as needed. You want the dough to be fairly dry and definitely not wet or overly sticky. Somewhere in between is best. More toward the dry side. Holding together but not wet. Okay.
Mix 630 grams fava bean flour with 180 grams water and a pinch of salt. Mix on the lowest mixer setting for about 15 minutes. Remove the dough and work by hand until smooth and firm. Wrap it in plastic wrap until you’re ready to roll it out. Since there’s no gluten in the dough you could start rolling it out right away but if you’re going to let it rest (for whatever superstitious reason you might have) wrap it up first so it doesn’t try out.
Meanwhile, clean your nettles by stripping them off the stems and soaking them. Then drain them.
When you’re ready to begin making the pasta, cut off a small slice from your roll and wrap the larger part back up. Roll the slice into a very small diameter cylinder, maybe 1/4 inch thick. Cut 1 inch to 1 1/4 inch pieces and then roll them, either with two or three fingers or with a butter knife. That’s how you make the indents and the grooves where the sauce will sit.
Start sautéing the nettles in a lot of very hot oil. You’ll have to keep adding oil if the pan starts to look dry. Salt them once they’ve all been coated and let them sweat and sauté. When they’ve cooked down more, make a well in the middle and add your minced garlic. Let it sweat and cook more.
Meanwhile, drop your pasta in salted water. It’s hard to overcook cavatelli but I found the right amount of time for fava bean flour cavatelli to be around 5 minutes. When they’re ready, drop them in the pan with the nettles and toss it all together. Add pasta water to loosen it up and toss more. Dot in some ricotta, toss and add more pasta water if necessary until it’s all mixed and the pasta is all coated. Serve the pasta and dot more ricotta on top. That’s it! 2 hours, done.