Orecchiette is a specialty pasta found in Puglia. Its name is derived from its shape which resembles little ears: orecchio = ear + ette = little => orecchiette.
Orecchiette dough is made from flour (farina di grano), water, and a little salt. No, I didn’t forget the eggs; there are no eggs in orecchiette dough.
First, make the flour into into a “crater” shape, then make a hole with your fingers and slowly add the water and mix with your fingers until you have something you can knead.
Oh, but there is a secret ingredient… love! Si, working the dough with loving hands is critically important!
Now, it’s hands on! Knead, knead, knead! Working the dough is definitely a learned art and best learned from a local signora. Too sticky? Add a little more flour. Too flaky? Add a little more water. And maybe a little more love? Practice and experienced hands will know when it’s the perfect consistency…
After the covered dough has rested for 15 minutes (you may need to rest as well!), chunks are rolled into long thin “snakes” on a floured board. After cutting small (approximately 1/2” wide) pieces, the blade edge of a dull knife is used to gently press, with the perfect amount of pressure, and make the orecchietta (resembling a small cup) which is then gently “folded” back over the thumb for that distinctive “ear”-shape. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And in expert hands, it is! Let’s try this again…
Orecchiette is served for almost every pasta course in Puglia although different areas specialize in different sizes; large In the Lecce area and small in the Bari area. I’m not sure if this is indicative of anything but orecchiette are perfect for scooping a variety of sauces and toppings.
Although I have to admit to being all thumbs at making orecchiette, it’s great fun to try. Besides, they all taste delicious!