Listen up! We’re making Orecchiette!

It’s been quite some time since we made pasta from scratch, so, I thought today would be a good day to make another. Today’s pasta comes to us from Puglia (Apulia), a District along Italy’s Southeast coast, including the “heel of the boot.” Meaning little ears, orecchiette is another pasta named for that which it resembles. And if you’re willing to accept that tortellini were modeled after the navel of Venus, you should have no problem accepting that orecchiette look like little ears.

Coming from Puglia, it’s a safe bet to say that the dough should be made with durum flour and water. And if you want to make authentic orecchiette, that’s what you should do. The fact is that Mom’s family, the Bartolini, came from Marche where eggs are used to make pasta. That’s how I learned to make pasta dough and that’s the recipe I shared here. Now, I’ve tried to make pasta using semolina but certainly not enough times to get a “feel” for the dough like I have with Mom’s pasta dough. So, I now have a container of semolina flour in my kitchen, along with containers for whole wheat,  spelt, bread, cake, and all-purpose flours. Given my poor track record with semolina, I just didn’t feel like buying a bag of durum to add to my flour collection. (FYI, semolina and durum are not the same flour, although both are made from durum wheat.) So, though this pasta shape is pugliese, from Puglia, the pasta dough is marchigiani, from Le Marche.

Now that’s settled, let’s get on with the show. You’ll find that orecchiette are really quite simple to make, albeit repetitive. There are no shortcuts and it is just complicated enough to require your attention throughout. In short, you can watch television or make orecchiette — but you cannot do both at the same time. The process involves taking a golf ball-sized piece of dough and rolling it into a long thin rope. The pasta is then cut, molded using your thumb, and set aside. Easy peasy! Now form another 350 or so “ears” and you’ll have a pound of pasta.

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Take a piece of dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Be sure to cover the remaining dough to prevent its drying out.

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Remember Play-Doh? Roll out a snake.

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My snakes were about 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide. (See Notes below.)

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Cut the dough into equally sized segments of about 1/2 inch in length.

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Using the tip of a blunt knife, smash the dough segment and draw it towards you. This will flatten the segment and cause it to curl over the knife. Keep a supply of flour nearby to occasionally coat the tip of the knife, as well as for your thumb in the next step.

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Invert the curled segment, pulling it over your thumb in the process.

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Remove it from you thumb to reveal a perfectly formed orecchietta.

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A look at the flip side. I found it best to store them cup-side down until dried otherwise the pasta’s “walls” tended to collapse, leaving a flat disk instead of a concave ear.

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Notes

You must take into account the size of your thumb when rolling the dough and cutting it into segments. Although I prefer my orecchiette small, my thumbs are too large to accomplish that and attempts to use another finger tip didn’t work out. As a result, I needed to make my dough roll a little on the thick side. I’m sure that if I made orecchiette more often, I’d eventually learn to make smaller ones. Even so, freshly made “large” orecchiette are still better than those in a box.

Being homemade, part of this pasta’s charm is its lack of uniformity. Don’t obsess and try to get all of the “little ears” to be the same shape and size. You’ll find that those created near the end of your dough supply are far more alike than the ones you made at the start — and that’s just fine. I prefer to think of my orecchiette as being rustic. You should, too.

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Coming next week …

Next week I’ll post the pugliese recipe for orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe, pictured above.

By the time many of you read this post, I’ll be well on my way to Michigan. Please understand that while there, I can read your posts and comments but making my own comment or reply is unbelievably slow.  Most may have to wait until I return home.

*     *     *

By any other name …

“Honor”

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132 thoughts on “Listen up! We’re making Orecchiette!

  1. I’m listening! Truly! Fun aside, the making of these little beauties may be a tad repetetive, but I prefer to call it therapeutic: one can go off into a dream world, possible with some lovely violin or piano music in the background, and then look down at a wonderful pile ready for the pot? Oh, love the honourable rose 🙂 !

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    • You know, you’re right. It really is therapeutic. Once you settle into a rhythm, it isn’t bad at all, especially since you probably won’t be trying to take pictures for a blog while you do it. Thank’s for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment.

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    • Oh, c’mon and give ’em a try. I’ve “how-to” instructions for a number of other home-made pastas, if you’re interested. They’re in a pre-sort located on the far right. Some are easier to make than orrecchiette. Once you get the dough made & rolled, the rest is a breeze. Honest! 🙂

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  2. I’ve only just learnt how to make pasta this year. We used to try with semolina flour (we can get rimacinata (remilled) sem flour here which is superfine), but found the dough just too hard to work with. Much easier with AP (plain) flour as you’ve done. Next time we make some, we’ll try making some of your orecchiette as well! 🙂

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    • I guess if we were to use semolina more frequently, we could master it. Greg over at the Rufus Guide does a great job making and using dough made with semolina. I just haven’t the knack for it and the entire time I’m “fighting” with it, I’m thinking that I should have made Mom’s pasta dough. Glad to hear, though, that you’ve learnt to make pasta. It makes all the difference in the World when you can make and cook it shortly thereafter. YUM!

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  3. I love orecchiette but have never thought to make them myself. I think I´d enjoy it as I find “repetitive” cooking quite therapeutic. These also bring back happy memories of eating them for the first time one summer in Calabria with the family on my parents´ wedding anniversary (10th August, it always fell when we were on the summer holiday) in what seemed to me to be rather a grand restaurant (it propabably wasn´t at all) and giggling at the thought of eating little ears!

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    • As I’d just mentioned to another, Tanya, this is therapeutic, once there’s no need to attempt to operate a camera in the process. That was the only real hassle. We kids were forever laughing at the meaning behind our pastas – linguine, orecchiette, or even passatini, which we of course called “worms.” Now, years later, I think it was all part of their master plan to get us to eat a variety of dishes. It worked for me. I’ve never met a pasta I didn’t like. 🙂
      Have a wonderful and produtive time in the next month. Can’t wait to hear the stories.

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    • Thank you, Francine. As originally intended, this blog was to preserve family recipes for future family members, most of which will have little idea of how to make these pastas. I try to break them into simple steps so that they or anyone can follow them and make pasta.

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    • Thank you, Sawsan. THis time around, the therapeutic benenfits were somewhat lost when I had to stop and take photographs of each step. Once I got enough photos to ensure a good post, then settled into a routine and the experience changed. If you like these types of activities, just wait until we make orzo! 🙂

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    • Thanka, Roger, but you, too can make pasta at home. None of this is difficult, especially for someone like you who knows his way around a kitchen. Whether or not you have the time is probably the larger concern.
      I arrived yesterday after an eventless drive, thankfully. It is so much cooler than back home. A very welcome change. 🙂

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  4. Easy for you, John. I know I would be good on the eating end! You make it look possible, though. Envisioning the flour collection. Something they are missing in the Paleo home I am staying in right now,
    And your Honor rose is a beauty. Have a wonderful trip to Michigan. You will be missed!
    Looking forward to FR at the ballgames when you return.

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    • Oh, Ruth, these would be easy for you, too. All you have to do is load eggs, flour, a touch of olive oil, and maybe a litle water in your food processor. Give it a whirl and in about 30 seconds you have your dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes. Then take a golf ball piece of dough, make a snake, cut it, shape it, and continue. It really is that simple and you could make them — along with a granddaughter and grandson, or 4 or 5. Seriiosly, Ruth. This is an easy one. Trust me! 🙂

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  5. You’ve just given me a magical thought…playdough that Angel can EAT! Maybe the next time the rain (or heat) keeps us in the house all day, she and I can try this! How long do they take to dry, and how do you store them if you’re not using them right away?
    Love to Zia, and we’ll “see” you when you get home!

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    • And you’ve got me thinking, Marie. There are a couple pastas and pasta type dishes that are very kid-friendly. We made them as children and Mom and Zia taught the grandkids how to make them, too. I should write a post or two about them.
      I ran into problems with these because it was such a high humidity day. Normally, they should be dry within a couple hours, and I turn them over mid-way through. I used them that day and all was well. I would have 2nd thoughts leaving an egg pasta out in that high humidity. I’ve “lost” pasta to mold that way. Instead, I’d leave it on baking sheets and refrigerate it, if it was to be used the next day, or place the baking sheets in the freezer and, once frozen, pack them in bags. Now, having said all that, if it is a normal day, the pasta should fully dry within a couple hours and we store them in “pasta basket”, in layers separated by paper towels or wax paper. They aren’t sealed air tight and we’ve kept them this way for weeks. BUT, they must be fully dried before you do this lest they spoil. Oh! Be sure to put your pasta basket in a high place or Max will surely find it and, well, you’ll be changing your dinner plans.

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  6. Right that’s it, summer is here and you’ve persuaded me – it’s pasta time!
    I’m off to check your basic recipe and see what I can make, ……
    Hope you have a great week in Michigan John !

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    • You can do it, Claire! It may seem a little strange at first, but, once you get the hang of it, pasta making, no matter what type, gets easier and easier. But, you have to start somewhere. And I’ll be here to answer any questions you may have.
      Michigan is wonderful. I’m waiting for the path the the lake to dry a bit so that Max and I can go down there and play. I think this dog is part seal, he loves the water so much. For me, I’ll grasp at any chance to get him enough exercise to tire him out.

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      • Thank you John for the encouragement! I have to confess I didn’t make any as planned as friends came round for supper and I didn’t fancy making pasta for the first time with a crowd to feed!
        I was planning on halving your basic dough recipe as a trial, and I’m on the look out for a machine (I aim to try and pick one up second hand), but in the meantime I’ll try an droll it out and see how I go.
        I just love it when dogs love water, I know you need to run a mile so you don’t get soaked, but its great to see them in and out of the water. Somehow I don’t think you will ever tire Max out – but I guess you have to live in hope 🙂

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        • Well, I’m with you on this, Claire. I do not like to try out a new recipe on dinner guests. I would have waited, too. Your idea to halve the recipe is a good one. You’ll do fine, rest assured. 🙂
          Yes, Max may not like to swim out, although he will to chase a ball, but he does like to go under to pick things off of the lake bottom. And it isn’t just a quick dip. He’ll stay under for a good 10 seconds trying to find the rock I tossed to him. It’s a shock to people who have never seen him do it before — and a whole lotta fun for me! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Tanya. It looks easy becasue it is. I’m relatively ham-fisted and not at all capable of doing detailed work. My hands just aren’t cooperative. I can make these pastas, though, and if I can, just about anyone can.

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    • Thanks, David. Judging by a number of comments, you aren’t alone. Many others share your love for orrechiette. With your kitchen skills, you’ll make these in a breeze, no doubt.
      The trip here was very pleasant and it is heavenly cool here. Such a welcome break, sleeping with windows open and feeling a chilly breeze. A chilly breeze!!!!!

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  7. Have a great trip.
    Making orecchietta reminds me of thinning carrot seedlings and pulling weeds, tedious but relaxing and I can go off to la la land and day dream.
    Honor is gorgeous.

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    • Thank you, Norma, and yes, orrichiette is very much like some garden tasks. You get into a zone and, before you know it, the task at hand is done.
      The heat has really impacted the roses, Norma. This time of year, each bush should be in full bloom. Before I left, there were only 2 blooms opening up and they were terribly small. Last week, on the rare cooler days, I stripped away the old mulch in the “girls” bed, laid down some organic food crystals, pruned them all, and laid down a new thick layer of mulch. Once I get home, there should be some new growth and then I’ll start on the next bed. I may not be able to do much for this season but I’m tring to get the ready for this winter and next seaon. Fingers crossed.

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  8. Now THAT is taking making pasta at home to a whole higher level! I’ve considered making orecchiette in the past, but talked myself out of it, seemed like something one needs to be in a full-Zen mood to attempt.

    but maybe one day I’ll get there, I do love to make pasta from scratch, just haven’t made it in a while

    great post!

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    • Yes, this is one of those tasks that will put you into a zone as you progress. I make quite a bit of pasta, though most are the ribbon-types, linguinne, trennette, fettuccine, or papardelle. I’ll often cut them by hand because that means one less contraption to get out, use, clean, and put away. Just roll up the dough, cut, and unroll. Another instance of easy peasy!
      Thanks for dropping by and leaving such a great comment!

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  9. When I first went through the instructions for making the orecchiette, my reaction was that this is just too fiddly for me. Then I realized that’s because I’m all dressed and ready to go to work in the next few minutes, my mind halfway there already, plumbing the depths of my to-do mountain. Then I stepped out of that work mode, and thought about sitting at the kitchen table on a rainy Sunday afternoon, a glass of wine at hand and music in the background, contemplatively making these little pastas, the repetitiveness of the task lulling me into relaxation, setting my mind free to roam to happy places. Oh yes, I will be making these. As an added bonus, I’ve now gotten myself into a relaxed state to face the busy day ahead. Cooking (or thinking about cooking) as therapy indeed!

    If I were to add anything else to the vignette above, it would be to be making this pasta with someone I love and with a vase of fragrant roses, such as your peace-inducing Honor, sitting on the sideboard.

    Have a wonderful trip, and I look forward to hearing from you when you’re back.

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    • Glad you gave it a second thought. When I make these or any pasta on my own and without having to photograph the steps, it is a relaxing afternoon. And there is a real satisfaction that comes with serving your pasta to dinner guests and they realize you made them by hand. And though not exactly what you may have had in mind, some of the best times I’ve shared with Zia are when we’ve sat and made pasta together. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Karen, for always stopping to comment. You certainly aren’t alone with your appreciation of orrecchiette. Had I known that so many liked it, I would have posted this ages ago.
      Much like I imagine the weather at your home in Maine, it is much cooler here and just perfect, weather wise. It really is such a welcome change!

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  10. I love the way this pasta is shaped into little sauce-cradling cups. This would be one of those recipes that I would file under “kitchen therapy” — the time and methodical repetition give excellent opportunity for getting lost deeply in thought. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Judy, and the thing about those “cups” is that they aren’t to be smooth. That’s why you smush them with a knife tip and then invert it onto your thumb. The knife will leave marks in the dough. When you invert it, those marks should remain and will later help your sauce to cling onto the outside of the orrecchiette. Genius!

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    • I don’t believe for a second, Geni, that you would need to double my “pasta making” time. This is such an easy pasta to make. You needn’t create dough sheets and that, alone, saves plenty of time. I could make a pound of orrechiette in under 2 hours, easily, and that would include making the dough and letting it rest for 30 minutes, Granted, your first time making this pasta may take the full 2 hours, but that will be because it is unfamilar territory. Consider your first attempt a practice run. After that, you’ll make them more and more quickly. And your family will thank you for it. Home-made pasta is simply the best.

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  11. The first thing I thought about when looking at the photos is that I need to learn this one so that I can pass it along to my granddaughters…I think I saw “playdough” even before you said it! 🙂 I must admit you make this look easy, and I’m sure it isn’t, but worth the time. Yesterday we found a wonderful beach shop selling incredible imported olive oils and pastas. It felt luxurious to me, and I feel inspired. My daughter and I agreed we were quite sure we could live on pasta! I hope you and Max have a wonderful time, John. I am happy picturing you with Zia! There’s nothing more important than that time, is there? (love the rose, too!). Safe travels, Debra

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    • Thank you, Debra, this time is really special and tomorrow, believe it or not, we’ll be making orrecchiete together. I really enjoy these pasta-making sessions with her. It’s always a great afternoon.
      As I mentioned ealier to Marie, this is one of a few kid-friendly recipes for making pasta at home. I need to post them for Marie, you and your granddaughters. Mom & Zia used them to occupy the visiting grandkids on many occasions. They’ll work for you, too!

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    • Hi, Natale. Some like baking, others love to cook. I really enjoy making pasta. If I see a new pasta shape, I cannot wait to get home to see if I can make it for myself. Of course, you can never beat the convenience of a box of pasta but, then again, you cannot beat the look on your dinner guests’ faces when they realize you’ve made the pasta that they’re eating. 🙂

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  12. Now this is a pasta I would enjoy making! I used to be a potter and my favorite thing to do was roll coils to make pots…so this is right up my alley! Plus I love that it doesn’t take much space in which to make it, since my counter space is so limited. Thanks for such great instructions, too. I’m looking forward to your orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe recipe! In the meantime, have a wonderful trip to Michigan, enjoy the lake and all it has to offer you and Max, and I know you’ll especially treasure your time with Zia. 🙂

    p.s. Honor is so majestic and aptly named!

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    • Thank you, Betsy. With your experience as a potter, you can easily learn to make orrecchiette. And next week’s recipe is an easy one to prepare. I hope you’ll like it.
      This will be a great trip, too. I’m sitting near a window with a hummingbird feeder. As I type, I can hear them buzzing in and out. It is far cooler than back home and a constant breeze will keep it that way. After lunch, Max and I will be heading to the beach to get him some exercise and give my Zia a little peace and quiet. So far, soo good! 🙂

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  13. We’ll be returning to Puglia this fall for another visit to a cookery school there, and brush up on our orecchiette technique! The most difficult part is finding the right durum flour here…

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    • How I envy you your attending a cooking school in Puglia! One of these days, I’m going back to Italy and this time will be purssuing things like cooking classes. I’ve been there enough times to have seen the major tourist attractions, more than twice, so it’s time to shift focus. And you’re right, my lack of experience with durum flour aside, it is very hard to find. Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

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  14. Every so often I read the title of your post, draw a blank, and then yell at Liz asking her what this Italian thing you’re talking about is. Then of course it always dawns on me like a smack in the face that I’m an idiot. I guess i should start taking Italian lessons so things come to immediately like orecchiette. 😉

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    • Aw, Jed. I won’t leave ya hanging. I try to always leave a translation for the Italian words and phrases. Remember, I’m writing this for future Bartolini, most of whom will know even fewer Italian words than I. I hope this will give them a leg-up on learning a bit of Italian. On the other hand, I do enjoy the picture in my mind’s eye of you calling out to Liz for help. 🙂

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    • YOU CAN DO THIS!!! Much will depend upon the equipment you own — i.e., a pasta machine, rolling pin, food processor, etc. — but, once you get the pasta made, there are a number of pastas that are very easy to make. I’ve already posted instructions for a few, none of which are beyond your capabilites. I read your blog, you know! You are hardly a novice in the kitchen. 🙂
      I am here to help should you run into or anticipate any problems. You can do this!

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        • Exactly! You can do this and will be surprised at how great your pasta tastes. And when you really want to surprise yourself, make your own lasagna noodles. I’ve a freind who says my lasagna is more like pastry because of the noodles. You’ll see … 🙂

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  15. I’m always excited when I see a new post from you, John; I know it’s going to be a new and interesting recipe and one that I likely have not tried. Although I am no longer much of a pasta eater (I used to be though), I do love making it. It really makes me feel rustic. I love the little ears, so adorable and the little cups, I am certain, will hold the sauce (or cheese in your photo) perfectly. Cheers.

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  16. Have a good trip! I often make my own pasta dough, but I usually don’t make the shapes that require a great deal of hand shaping. I’ll barely tolerate tortellini – orecchiette? Never done it. Although I should sometime, because I haven’t found a dried, boxed version that I really like (weird, because there’s so much good boxed pasta). Look forward to seeing the orecchiette put to work in the next recipe!

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    • Thanks for commenting! Funny thing. I rarely make tortellini because of the hand-shaping. We use dies to make ravioli and that post is listed in the home-made pasta item on the right of this page. They may not be as fancy to look at but they taste as good as tortellini and without the hassle. (I was never good at origami, either,) 🙂

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    • Thank you, again, kind Lady. I try to give some background,when I can, because it oftentimes is an interesting tale. Please, though, if you ever determine an error, feel free to correct me. Your knowledge of these things is far more extensive than mine and I certainly wouldn’t mind. In fact, I’d be most grateful. 🙂

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      • You are very well documented and you stick to traditions, really! Let me tell you that being far away from Italy, it is very difficult for someone to make the real, traditional recipe (language, distance factors, etc). Consider that many Italians (outside of Rome) do not know how to make the real Amatriciana – only Romans do it right! Had I have doubts about any of your recipes, I will send you an email. But I’d also apprecciate if you gave me feedback for I was not born Italian 🙂

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        • Thank you again for being so complimentary. And it’s a deal, though I doubt you’ll ever need any input from me. I’m honored that you would even consider it a possiblity. So, thaks again. 🙂

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  17. This is the very first homemade pasta I ever made. Mike and I made a date night out of it last winter. We used semolina and water. So now that I know this is a pasta I can easily pull off…I’ll be anxiously awaiting your recipe next week. 🙂

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    • See? You are my proof that this is an easy pasta to make. You made it and it was the first home-made pasta you chose to make. And didn’t its flavor beat anything you could have bought in a box? This is why I go through the hassle of making them. They aren’t hard to make but they taste so good! THanks for stopping by, Kristy, and offering hands-on proof! 🙂

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      • They were 100 times better than boxed pasta! 🙂 I’ve been craving fresh pasta since this post too. I think as soon as school starts up again, I’m going to make some fresh pasta. (I always seem to have more time to cook during the school year!)

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  18. How’s Michigan? Well that pasta is for a time when I have the house to myself and some good music playing and many hours to spend making little ears. I have seen this made before and I always marvel at how the women (I’ve only seen women on TV, not men) who spend hours making it never see to become bitter and twisted at how quickly those who come to their table woof it down. I’d be furious! xx

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    • Oh, Charlie, Michigan is terrific. Strong storms passed through last night and today is a breezy, sunny day — and blissfully cool compared to back home. I imagine that making these pastas is akin to knitting or crocheting. You just go into a zone and keep chugging along until you’re done. It can be a very relaxing process — but maybe not for everyone. I happen to like it … well, I really like the pasta and will put up with a lot to see a plate of it in front of me. 🙂
      I must admit, though, to wondering how Mom could work for hours, making ravioli for a famly of 5 only to see it wolfed down in minutes. But she did, time and time again — much to my complete enjoyment. 🙂

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  19. Yay!! You’ve finally gotten around to posting my favorite little pasta! I adore orecchiette and I’m not embarrassed to admit it is simply because they are little ears! I can imagine a little Italian grandma pinching those little ears (and I don’t mean just “pasta” ears), perhaps that’s how they were named 😉 Your photos make it look so easy that I’m definitely going to give it a try.. I bet you can just snap your fingers and have a potful made in no time. Best of all.. I know if I get stuck, I just have to pop you an email and help is on the way:D While you’re traveling today.. so was I.. just got back home after an overnighter with my parents at the lake and was so happy to open up my email and discover your post!! Your Honor rose is a stunner and.. and it looks like you’ve had better weather?? I’ve been swooshing cool air your way since the weekend, but I don’t know if it’s helped?! Bon Voyage!!
    “Perseverance or orecchiette, dear my lord, Keeps Honor bright”

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    • Thanks, Barb. I must admit to being somewhat surprised to see that so many really enjoy orricchiette. I could have posted these recipes much earlier had I known. Even so, better late than never. Once the photos were out of the way, I could concentrate on just making my ears and things zipped along. Trust me, you’ll find it the same way. The process just isn’t that difficult. As I’ve said to others, you can easily make these. I’ve seen your blog and have a good idea of your capabilities — which far exceed those required to make orrecchiette.
      And keep those breezes coming! The weather here is so cool and such a welcome change from the 100˚ that was yesterday’s high in Chicago. Beautiful!

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    • And that’s all my fault, Mandy. I thought I’d be driving through South Africa to get to Michigan. I was urprised to learn that the bridge was out. I would have thought Google Maps would have had some sort of notification…
      I’ve been here a day but already am feeling so much better. This cooler weather is so much more agreeable. Have a great week! 🙂

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    • Yes, not having to roll the dough into sheets makes this pasta much more accessible for us novice pasta makers. And thanks, the trip is going fine so far. YAY!!!!
      THank you for visiting and taking the time to comment.

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    • Thanks, Sharyn, and you may quote me, if you like. 🙂
      It was a nice trip and today was a beautiful one. Tonight we’ll be making ice cream and tomorrow pasta. Ahhhhh!

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  20. Oh John I love those little ear pastas! Usually I use those with pesto since they hold such a generous portion of the good stuff. 🙂 (pig that I am!) NEVER would have thought to make my own, but putting one’s own thumbprint on a dish seems like such a good idea now! You so inspire!

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    • I’ve had a few pasta demonstrations on this site, Spree, and this has to be one of the easiest since there is no pasta to roll into sheets. And there’s no big learning curve. Once you make a few, you’ll quickly get the picture and start whipping them out.
      When I have a dinner party, I always serve a primo piatto of pasta of some sort. Always home-made, my guests are taken aback that something like orrecchiette for example, can be hand-made. Of course, being so many of my friends read this blog, the element of surprise is going to be a bit harder to pull off next time. 🙂

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    • Your boys will love the idea of eating little ears. Check out Tanya’s comment (Chica Andaluza) above. She said much the same thing based on her remembrance as a child. You can even get them to shape them on their fingers. Who cares if they’re misshapen so long as they eat them. Good luck!

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  21. I worked at a millinery while I was at university and on my first day on the job I had to tie little bows out of strips of tulle for a bridal veil — all day long. I got a lot of thinking done, and I’ve never shied from repetitive tasks since (I knit, for instance). This made me think of Baki, actually — even before the play dough reference. He loves making pasta. Maybe we’ll try it! Happy trails…

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    • Zia and I made a batch of orrecchiette that I cooked for dinner. Since there was no camera to worry about, it was a much different experience. We talked about kid-friendly recipes and know of 2 others. I’ll post instructions and recipes for them in the weeks ahead. Many a nephew and neice got their start with one of them, as will Baki … so long as you do not mind less than perfect pasta for dinner. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Maria. Zia and I spent time this afternoon making orrechiette and pappardelle. After, I cooked dinner for us. The table cleared, dishes washed, and we sat down to watch the Opening Ceremonies — made more special with a couple scoops of ice cream that I made earlier. Yeah, this is a great holiday!

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  22. John, you’re a champ to me. I love homemade pasta and make a few, easy, homemade pastas, i.e ravioli, lasagna, fettucini, but something this tedious is beyond my grasp. I’m seriously impressed! I love your step by step instruction and photos. This is a real family treasure. Maybe someday I will give this a try.

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    • Hey, Richard! Thanks for your comment.
      I’ll be the first to admit this is a repetitive exercise — but not a bad experience. Once you’ve made a few and found your rhythm, you really can knock them out. Still, I’ve other home-made pastas listed (fazzoletti, strozzapretti, quadretti) and none are at all complicated or hard to do. You’d be surprised. C’mon! Give it a whirl! 😉

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  23. John, thanks for this detailed tutorial on orecchiette. I need to try it too, and involve all family, that would be fun! Everyone can make their own orecchiette, depending on their thumb size… 🙂
    Love homemade pasta, nothing could be better! I was watching a documentary another day about Italians, and people were asked how often they eat pasta. Their respond most of the time was: every day…:)

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    • You’re very welcome, Marina. This is a good “communal” activity. My Zia and I made a batch this afternoon. She with a small glass of wine and me with a cocktail. Shortly thereafter, I was cooking them in next week’s recipe. It was a great couple hours and I’m sure you’d find it every bit as enjoyable with your family.
      Italians, from what I’ve read, eat about 52 lbs of pasta/year. I’ve heard more than one chef here say that 1 one lb box of spaghetti contains 8 servings. That would fit nicely into those yearly total figures and if you eat a little pasta like that daily, what’s the harm? We tend to eat much more than that in one course, once a week. I suspect their way is better.
      I sure hope so! 🙂

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  24. Hi John,

    I’m so glad you said not to worry if they were different shapes as my one and only attempt so far resulted in just that and I was so disappointed!! It was a hot day and the dough got quite sticky and then I tried to rush things, then a friend rang and I tried to carry on one handed whilst holding the phone to my ear with the other…and finally I overcooked them so many disintegrated so I swore never to make them again…perhaps I need to be brave and try again…

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    • So sorry your first experience went so badly. Don’t let that discourage you, though. Like any other dough, you need to get a feel for it. This is why I just don’t use semolina flour anymore. I never got a feel for it like I do when I make dough using All-Purpose (AP) flour. And the only way to get that feel is to make it, again and again. I’ve had good luck using my Mom’s pasta dough. Maybe it will work for you, too. I’ll be here to help in any way I can. Good luck!

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  25. Hi John!
    I hope you are having fun. I like your post very much and I’m sure that someday I will try to make Orecchiette at home, but I’m afraid that right now I’m lacking the patience 😉
    I’m looking forward to learn that recipe for the sauce, hmm!

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    • Giovanna, you have so much going on right now with your children that it’s a wonder you have time to blog at all. If you want orrecchiette, buy a box. I won’t tell anyone. 😉

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  26. John, I left a comment but I think it didn’t show up. Wanted to stop by before I signed off for a bit to regroup and get my move taken care of. Too hard to juggle everything and being a good blogger and reader takes a lot of time and dedication. So, will take the month of August as a blog vacation period and come back afterward. I’m sure I’ll find you here still and quite adored by those who stop by for your great recipes and family stories, and those you read and take the time to comment and make feel special. I do want the recipe for your sauce, however, so will stop by and check up on you and see what’s on the menu. Susie

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    • Thank you, Susie, for always being so complimentary. I was just at your site and read that you were taking a much needed break. With so much going on right now for you, it’s a wonder you didn’t take off August, too. Good luck with The Move, Susie. We’ll all be here, waiting for your return. 🙂

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  27. Oh, if only I had your patience! I love little ears! Especially in my sauciest of sauces! But making them from scratch, each little ear…your amazing John! I think I could do it with a couple of friends, a glass of two of wine, and we’d have lots of ears, in all shapes and sizes 🙂 Even better would be to have you as a neighbor to share your jams and pasta! And, of course, to walk by and admire your beautiful roses! Hope your enjoying a fun summer!

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  28. Hey, Linda! I just got back from visiting Zia. One afternoon, I made a batch of Mom’s pasta dough, which yields about one-and-a-half pounds of dough. We made orrecchiette with half and pappardelle with the rest. She had a little wine and I a Manhattan. It was a wonderful afternoon and, by all means, gather a couple friends and make some for yourselves. Then use the pasta in my next recipe, cooking dinner for your fellow pasta makers. You won’t regret it, guaranteed!
    I hope you, too, are enjoying your Summer and that it’s not all work and no play. 🙂

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  29. Pingback: Friends, Bloggers, and Bartolini! Lend Me Your Orecchiette! | from the Bartolini kitchens

    • But it is that easy!!! In a few minutes you’ll be making them like a pro. And they taste so much better than anything you’ll get in a box. C’mon. Give ’em a go!

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  30. Hi there! I was sent your way by Richard McGary since I was just blogging about home-made orechiette myself and he said I should check out your blog. So here I am and I like what I see very much!
    I used an even easier method to shape the orechiette, using both my thumbs rather than a knife: http://stefangourmet.com/2012/08/09/home-made-orechiette-with-tomato-and-basil/ and I did use just semola di grano duro rimacinato and water for the dough. I’m Dutch by the way, but almost an Italian when it comes to food!

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    • Hello, Stefan! Thank you for the link to your blog. From what I’ve learned, the main reason for using a knife — either the tip like I demonstrated or an edge, as in you video — is to drag the pasta across a pasta board, thereby creating a rough surface to the pasta. When it is inverted on a thumb, that rough edge is on the outside of each orecchietta and is intended to give the sauce something to cling to. The next time you see a box of orecchiette, take a look and the outer side of each should be rough.
      The dough you used is closer to the dough used in Puglia than the one that I used. I was taught this dough recipe from my Mother and have used it over 30 years. It’s a little too late to change now. 🙂
      Thank you visiting and taking the time to comment.

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      • Hi John, thank you as well for stopping by and take the time to write a response. I have noticed the rough surface on orechiette, and on the ‘artisan’ orechiette there are even some grooves. The sauce did cling to my orechiette despite not having used a knife, but perhaps I should have someone teach me the proper gesture next time I’m in Puglia anyway. If they can do it in slow motion, that is.
        When an Italian friend showed me how to make gnocchi she also used one of those gestures that she’d learned as a little girl and she was laughing at me when I couldn’t master it straight away. Oh well. That gesture was also for the sauce clinging (using a fork or a special gnocchi tool). My gnocchi still taste good anyway 🙂
        It’s too nice out, but once it rains again (which will be soon) I’ll go check out more of your blog.
        P.S. I love Chicago and have been there often. Will try to purchase Alinea tickets for my next stop in September…

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        • Hello, Stefan. Whether you’re cutting linguine or making orecchiette, practice is the key. If you’re at all like me, you probably don’t make orecchiette enough times to become an expert. I’m certainly not an expert! Many years ago when I first started making pasta, I found it difficult to cut pasta using a machine. Today, I cut linguine, fettuccine, and pappardelle all by hand, quickly an easily.
          Mom taught me to make gnocchi using a fork to make grooves on one side while using my thumb to make an indentation on the other. Years later, I bought an inexpensive “gnocchi board” for making the grooves. Both Mom and my Zia thought it a waste of money, “You can’t use a fork?” 🙂
          IF you do return to Chicago, I hope we can arrange a meeting. Let’s see what The Fates have in store.

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          • You are absolutely right about practice being key. I have to remind myself every time I’m showing someone else how to make pasta or peel shrimp or whatever before I bitch at them for being so slow 😉
            This time we will be in and out of O’Hare in less than 24 hours to visit friends (and eat at Alinea with them — if we can’t get tickets I’ll probably cook). But it would certainly be nice to meet when we have a bit more time in Chicago next time.

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  31. Pingback: Sunday Supper « The Artful Gardener

  32. You’re so funny. I think I’ve found a use for my undersized thumbs lol. I think I will start out with simple old pappardelle or fettuccine before moving on to this although I do love how orchiette are just made for cupping lovely sauces 🙂

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    • I’ve not seen your thumbs but, if they are small, I bet hou could make some beautiful orecchiette. You’d make a fortune in some pasta factory in Puglia! 🙂
      So many of the packaged pastas we see on the stores’ shelves can be made by hand. I’ve demonstrated a few and there are a couple more to go. Each is easy to make, as well as repetitive. That last bit will kill ya. I couldn’t imagine doing it daily.

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