This here recipe is a lesson in diction, brought to you by the Cavatelli family, a century after their immigration to America. Cavatelli are a popular fresh pasta in southern Italy, where there are many regional names for these little dumplings: cavatieddi, cavateddi, cavasuneddi, capunti, cavatielli, and dozens more. They are made like fresh pasta with flour, egg, and salt, but in some areas, particularly around Avellino, fresh ricotta cheese is added to the dough. It is said that at one point in time ricotta was cheaper than flour, and so was originally used as a filler. Interestingly, with the early 20th Century immigration from southern Italy to the U.S., cavatelli may have become better known in the northern U.S. than in northern Italy. And unfortunately, as the Italian language became diluted in the U.S, the name has been butchered, to the point where some gavones actually call them gavadeels. (Gavone comes from cafone, for peasant.)
Cavatelli may be a richer, denser pasta, but they can still be light and fluffy, which make them very versatile. I love them with broccoli, but for a heavier, winter meal, on the Italian-American side, they also go well with a hearty red gravy full of sausage and/or meatballs.
And while all of America gathers this weekend to watch the New York Giants trounce those cafoni from Boston in the Superbowl, the few, the proud, the lucky, will be eating Cavatelli al Ragu, simultaneously enjoying the best of the old and new worlds, regardless of their diction.
In a large skillet, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until golden brown. Puree the tomatoes and add them to the skillet. Add the salt and pepper. Cook on low heat, uncovered for about an hour, or until reduced. Pierce the sausage with a fork, and either fry it in another skillet or cook it under the broiler, until the outside is seared. Place the sausage into the tomato sauce and let it cook for the remainder of the time that the sauce cooks.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta and place into a serving bowl. Mix in some sauce. Serve immediately with a piece of sausage and a sprinkle of Parmigiano.
Ed Garrubbo, Editor