Nothing beats homemade pasta and a hearty bolognese sauce when it comes to comfort. Feel free to use your favourite store-bought pasta if you'd instead opt-out of making homemade dough. This cavatelli dough is made from semolina and 00 flour; no eggs are called for, making the dough firmer and more al dente when cooked. You can purchase a cavatelli maker online for around $40-$50, but this recipe is doable if you are making it by hand; check out this tutorial to shape cavatelli with a fork.
Both the leftover sauce and any uncooked cavatelli dough can be stored in the freezer to use later!
Cavatelli Bolognese 15 Steps
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot. When oil is hot and glistening, add pancetta and cook until crispy and majority of fat has rendered out (5 minutes). Add onion, celery and carrot to the pot, season with a pinch of salt and cook until vegetables are soft and translucent, about 6 minutes (might take on a little colour but should not be overly browning). Remove mirepoix (carrot, onion and celery) and pancetta from the pot into a small bowl and set aside.
Ensuring your pot is still hot, break up ground beef and add to pot. Let sear for 3-4 minutes without stirring to achieve a nice golden crust. Add mirepoix and pancetta back to pot and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally (until beef is cooked through). Add tomato paste and stir until evenly combined and mixture has darkened in colour (2 minutes). Add wine, scraping the bottom to loosen any browned bits and cook for 5 minutes or until wine has evaporated.
Scatter flour over and stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute. Pour in your chicken broth and stir, bring back to a vigorous simmer. Add milk and a pinch of nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and bring back to a boil. Turn heat down to low and cover, with the lid slightly ajar.
Cook bolognese for 2 hours. Every 15-20 minutes, skim fat from the top, stir the sauce, taste for seasoning (adding a pinch of salt) and cover again. Everyone's burner is different so be wary of temperature control.
While your sauce cooks, make the semolina dough. In a large bowl, whisk together the semolina flour and 00 flour until combined. Create a well in the centre of the flour.
Mix the kosher salt and warm water together in a small measuring cup and then slowly pour into the centre of the well.
Using a fork, slowly start mixing the flour into the water, mix until a shaggy dough comes together. Pour out dough onto a clean work surface and using the palm of your hand, knead the dough for 10 minutes.
The dough should be relatively smooth and firm. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes of resting, cut your dough into 4 quarters using a bench scraper. Working with one quarter at a time and keeping the rest of the dough covered, roll your dough out into a skinny even log, about 1"-inch thick and 18" to 20"-inches long.
Repeat this with the rest of the dough, you might need to let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then continue to roll it out if it becomes difficult to work with (this will relax the gluten).
If working with a cavtelli maker, feed the thin log through the machine, cranking the handle. Toss the cavatelli dough in semolina flour and spread out on a large baking sheet covered until ready to cook (if you are going to boil your pasta within 30 minutes can keep it on the counter, if not place in fridge).
If making cavatelli by hand, cut 1 - 1 1/2" inch squares with a bench scraper or knife. If you have a gnocchi board, can use that to make indentations on your dough but if not, flour the back of a fork and roll each square of dough over the fork with your thumb.
One sauce has cooked for 2 hours and has reduced, taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly, set aside. In a large pot of salted boiling water, add your cavatelli and stir gently so pasta does not stick. Cook for 2-3 minutes, cavatelli will start floating to the top when cooked (remember too, your pasta will cook further in the sauce).
Drain pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water. Add pasta back to pot, along with desired amount of sauce (the bolognese recipe serves 4 with a bit of sauce leftover), 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano and 1/4 cup of pasta water to start. Over medium heat, cook until sauce binds to pasta (if too thick add more pasta water, if too thin add more sauce or Parmigiano).
Serve in shallow bowls with additional Parmigiano grated on top.