Ellie Bouhadana’s Cavatelli With Green Sauce, Pangrattato and Burrata

Welcome to Put on a Spread, a recipe series that takes you inside the kitchens – and dining rooms – of some of our favourite home cooks. For this instalment, Melbourne-based chef Ellie Bouhadana, shares her recipe for a vibrant and delicious cavatelli topped with pangrattato and burrata.

Previously, Ellie Bouhadana impressed us with her version of the classic Italian tiramisu. Now, she shares this delicious pasta dish, which will make you actually want to eat your greens.

Leeks are softened in melted butter, combined with vibrant vegetables and a splash of white wine to create a luxurious, silky sauce. This recipe will make more sauce than you need, so store the rest in a container in the fridge or freezer for another night – or eat it on its own with some fresh focaccia (we won't judge). 

Ellie’s cavatelli dish not only tastes amazing but looks the part too. Packed with flavour and topped with golden, crunchy breadcrumbs and creamy cheese, this recipe will not only tempt you and your guests for seconds (or thirds), but will make your kitchen smell delicious too. 

Ingredients

Serves 4

For the semolina pasta dough:

  • 400g semola rimacinata (fine durum wheat flour)
  • 200ml lukewarm water

For the pangrattato:

  • Half a loaf day old bread, blitzed up to form breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed with the back of a knife
  • Flakey salt

For the green sauce:

  • 300g leeks, ideally smaller ones 
  • 1/8 cup baby capers
  • 100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes 
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 200g broccoli, chopped into florets 
  • 100g Tuscan kale, stem removed and roughly sliced 
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup pecorino cheese, plus a handful more
  • 1 ball of burrata

Method

Using your hands, combine the semola with the water and begin kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about ten minutes). Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes under a slightly damp tea towel.

Cut the dough into six portions. Take the first piece and roll it into a long rope about 1cm thick. Cut the rope into pea-sized pieces no wider than 1cm. Once you’ve cut the dough, using a gnocchi board (you could also use a fork), hold a piece of dough against the board with your thumb and roll it down and over the ribbed surface. Continue with the remaining dough until they are finished.

Place the finished cavatelli on clean tea towels sprinkled with a light dusting of semola to dry out. You can let them dry out on the bench overnight or at least until they are completely dry to the touch.

Heat a pan over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and gently sear the smashed garlic cloves for a minute until the kitchen smells delicious. Add in the breadcrumbs, a big pinch of salt, the chilli flakes and stir. Once the breadcrumbs are toasted, golden and very crunchy, remove from heat.

Prepare the leeks by cutting away the root and trim 5-10cm of dark green from the top, so you are left with just the white and light green part of the vegetable. Slice the leeks into 5cm rounds, rinse well to get rid of any grit, then drain.

Melt the butter and 4 tbsp olive oil in a deep pan over a low medium heat, then add the capers, leeks, garlic, chilli flakes, salt and stir until they are shining. Butter a piece of baking paper and cover the leeks with it before placing the lid over the pan. Cook over a low, gentle flame for 15 minutes then uncover the leeks and pour in the wine. Stir then cover the leeks again and keep cooking for a further 10-15 minutes or until the wine has cooked off a bit and the leeks are super tender, slightly caramelised and soft. 

Prepare a bowl of iced water and leave to the side. 

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Blanch the kale and then the broccoli until tender (about 3 minutes) and before straining the greens save about two cups of the blanching water (it will act as a kind of vegetable stock for later). Once strained, quickly shock the blanched greens in the bowl of iced water.

In a food processor, blitz together the leek mixture, blanched greens, 1/2 cup of shaved pecorino, about 1 cup of the warm blanching liquid and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. You want to create a silky, loose sauce to coat the pasta so add more of the vegetable liquid (you will probably need to use 2 cups all up of the liquid) as needed in order to loosen the sauce. This recipe will make more sauce than you need - store the rest in a container in the fridge or freezer for another night. 

Bring a large pot of water to a fast boil, add salt, stir and add the cavatelli. Cook the pasta for about 3-4 minutes until it is al dente. Note - before draining the pasta, save a mugs worth of the pasta cooking water. 

Warm 2.5 cups of the green sauce in a wide pan over a low gentle heat. Transfer the cooked pasta into the pan with the sauce, add a ladle of the pasta cooking water that you set aside into the pan, a handful of pecorino and toss the pan energetically to create a beautifully emulsified sauce.

Serve on a large platter, topped with pangrattato and a ball of burrata. As you are serving the pasta, break open the burrata and make sure everyone gets some of the creamy cheese on top of their pasta.

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