Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Le Caccavelle

The view is spectacular, isn’t it?  Just a few days ago, I was there, heading towards Sorrento.  The drive along the coast was of distracting beauty and made it difficult to keep eyes steady and concentrated on the road.  As we approached each curve, instinctively, we held our breaths before the precipitous cliff-edges, the infinite vistas over the deep blue waters, the gardens full of lemon trees, the villas terraced on the hillsides and the crazy drivers that were coming the opposite lane.

After several stops for pictures, sight-seeing, coffee, food and more pictures, we arrived in Sorrento.  Again, there were more pictures, more coffee, more eating and lots of wandering around. The evening came, and just before going back to the car, this time, with our gps heading home, I spotted a cute little corner shop that sold specialities from the area. Across the window I saw an incredible huge shape of pasta, a type I’d never seen before.  I walked right in.  

The shop was very well organized.  Walls were stacked with many varieties and brands of pasta that you wouldn’t find in a supermarket.  Right next to the pasta, there were shelves with different types of canned tomatoes, so many extra virgin olive oils, from tiny to large, from scented to classic, hot peppers, Italian spices.  There was an incredible selection of limoncello in beautiful bottles, wines, vinegars, candies, cookies, pastries.  Everything divided by section, brand and quality.  

The owner of the shop noticed my stop in the pasta section and must have noticed how I kept going back and forth to the huge pasta that had brought me there in the first place.  The man came closer, and with a very strong Neapolitan accent said:  chelle sò le Caccavelle (those are Caccavelle).  Right there and then, I didn’t pay attention to the name of that type of pasta, even though it was clearly printed on the package, but the shop owner continued and explained that Caccavelle in Neapolitan, means pot.  Now, I was looking closer at the pasta and noticed how it wasn’t shaped like the shell-shape I had thought it was. It had handles, was rounder on the sides and flat on the bottom.  Indeed it was a pasta shaped like a pot.  From shelf, to cashier, to bag, to trunk, to home they went.
As I was washing some greens, I thought I would give them a stir fry with some extra virgin olive oil.  Then use the stir fried greens to fill the caccavelle, together with a sauce made of blanched garlic. Something in between aglio, olio & peperoncino, and orecchiette con cime di rapa, which is not so Neapolitan but still from the south and, most importantly, very good.

Blanching the garlic is a technique I have been using alot lately, because it maintains the garlic's flavor, lessening the piquant and sharp garlic notes. The garlic assumes more of a mild delicate taste, it's easily digested and doesn't leave you with that strong breath that sticks around for the next two days. 
Caccavelle with Stir Fried Rapini and Blanched Garlic Sauce

Caccavelle pasta
Rapini greens
8 cloves garlic + 1 clove to stir fry
hot pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan slivers

Split 8 garlic cloves in half and remove the garlic germ in the center. In a small sauce pan, add the garlic and enough cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil and drain the garlic.  Repeat the process 4 times.  Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the previously washed greens for 10 minutes.  Drain the greens and place them in a bowl with iced water so to maintain their green color.  Drain the greens from the iced water.

Add 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil , 1 garlic clove and a few flakes of hot pepper in a pan and let them sizzle for 1 minute.  Add the greens and stir fry until most of the humidity evaporates.

In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a bowl and cook the caccavelle.  No more than 4 caccavelle at a time.  While the pasta boils, remove some of its cooking water and add it to the blanched garlic. With a food processor puree the garlic until it forms a creamy liquid texture, if necessary add more cooking water, add some salt to taste.

Once the pasta is cooked.  Place one portion of caccavelle on a plate, add the stir-fried greens in the center of the pasta and pour the garlic sauce in and around the pasta, pour more on the inside of the pasta.  Add some hot pepper flakes, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few slivers of Parmesan cheese.  Serve warm.

*Note: What makes this pasta so good is the blanched garlic sauce and what makes it so unique is the pasta shape.  Of course, if you don't have this type of pasta, any type will do.  You can use a smaller type of pasta.  Mix the pasta and greens together with the blanched garlic sauce, sprinkle with cheese and it will be just as good.


  1. non ci credo nemmeno un po' che ti sei accattata solo le caccavelle in quel negozio !! :-))))

    p.s. lo sai che io da ora in poi non potrò più fare a meno di chiamare le cime di rapa "rapini" per colpa tua?

    1. Ehi guarda che anche Donna Hay le chiama rapini ;) Ho speso una fortuna!

  2. Oh that picture with all the shades of blue...gorgeous! Dreaming of the summer .....

    1. ...this summer we're going back, and you're coming with me! :*

  3. Panorama spettacolare di quelli da non andarsene più!!! Hai usato quel formato di pasta in grande stile, io creo sempre un bel pò di casini (ops, si può dire?) con le paste ripiene... spè, che vengo a pranzo da te :-) Un abbraccio Elvira

    1. Allora facciamo così, io ti faccio trovare la pasta ripiena se tu porti quel meraviglioso ciambellone che sta sulla copertina del tuo libro. Ci stai? :*