Cavatelli con Guanciale, Ricotta, Limone e Maggiorana
(Cavatelli with cured pork cheek, ricotta, lemon and marjoram)
For the Semolina Cavatelli
2 cups (335 grams) semolina flour, plus some for dusting
3/4 cup (177 ml) water
For the dish
1 pound cavatelli
8 oz guanciale or pancetta
8 oz drained ricotta* ( Liuzzi Fina is great)
4 sprigs of marjoram
2 cloves of garlic
Small block of Pecorino Toscano for finishing
Black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
For the Semolina Cavatelli
Add the flour to a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir in the water in a slow stream until a shaggy mass forms. At this point dump the mass onto a clean, dry work surface and begin kneading it until it forms a smooth dough. If it feels too wet, work in a bit more semolina. Too dry, a bit more water. You are looking for a slightly stiff but rollable dough.
Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Let rest at least 30 minutes on the counter or up to 3 days in the fridge. If refrigerating, make sure to pull out at room temperature at least 30 minutes before rolling the dough out.
Cut a small section from the disc of dough, and re-wrap the rest of the dough while you work so that it doesn't dry out. Begin rolling the section of dough into a rope with your hands on a clean, dry surface, preferably a wooden table. If the rope gets too long, just cut it in half and shape each half separately. You are looking for an even 1/2 inch thick rope. Repeat with the other half and line up the two ropes close together. With a knife, cut the ropes into equal 2 inch lengths.
On a wooden surface or a ridged gnocchi paddle, drag the small pieces of dough, one at a time, across the surface, pressing and pulling back at the same time with two fingers. You will get a dumpling with ridges on one side and two deep indentations on the other. Flick the finished cavatelli onto cookie sheet heavily dusted with more semolina flour. Be sure to coat the cavatelli well in the flour so that they don't stick. Keep covered.
Repeat the process. You will eventually get the hang of it and be able to roll a large amount of ropes very quickly, but it is very important to not do too much at once, so the pasta doesn't dry out.
You can leave the cavatelli out at room temp on the covered sheet try for at least a couple hours before cooking, or freeze until your ready to use at a later date. Makes about 1 pound (454 grams) cavatelli
For the dish
Bring 5 quarts of water to boil and season with 2.5 tablespoons of salt, lower heat and cover until ready to boil pasta
Finely chop the guanciale and marjoram together and set aside
Finely chop the garlic and set aside
Start the sauce:
In a large saute pan, begin rendering the guanciale and marjoram mixture in a tiny bit of olive oil over medium-high heat. When guanciale begins to color and get a bit crisp, drain off a bit of the excess fat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, stirring frequently to avoid burning it. When the garlic starts to turn light golden, add a tablespoon of the pasta cooking water to stop the cooking and remove from heat. Set aside until ready to cook pasta.
Cook the pasta:
Bring water back to a rolling boil and add the cavatelli, stirring it around a bit. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until al dente. This is a rustic, slightly chewy pasta, but feel free to cook more if you prefer it softer. Add the cooked pasta, along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pan of battuto and set over medium-high heat. Cook until it looks like a sauce is starting to shape up, the fat will start emulsifying with the water as it reduces. Add the ricotta, lemon zest and a little bit of the lemon juice and lower the heat to low. Toss and swirl until the sauce thickens up, remove from heat and finish with some grated pecorino and lots of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, more salt or lemon if needed. Serve with extra grated pecorino on top and some olive oil.