If you’re going to make cavatelli and broccoli the right way, you first need to learn to say it the right way.
Your eye scans the menu and your immediate response is oh! Ca-va-tell-ee! I haven’t had that in ages.
But say it with me now. Ga-va-deal.
What rules of pronunciation dictate that the ca becomes a ga?
I don’t know. But that’s the way my family says it. That’s the way I grew up saying it.
So I kind of cringe when I hear ca-va-tell-ee. Much the same way I cringe when I hear sauce instead of gravy or ca-know-lee instead of ga-nawl.
Is it the region of Italy we’re from? Is it the town in which we settled upon arrival to the States?
It’s probably just my family.
But I digress.
Cavatelli and broccoli.
The right way.
Okay before I can tell you how to make it, I have to let you in on the little inside joke about making it the right way.
My Grandma Grace (my mom’s mom) is one of four sisters. She had brothers too, a big Catholic Italian family, but it’s the sisters that are important in this story.
I grew up with a very Italian grandma and three very Italian great-aunts.
My mom grew up with a very Italian mother and three very Italian aunts.
When I say very Italian what I mean is very loud, very bossy, very opinionated, very loving, and did I mention very loud?
One louder than the other.
I laugh when my Auntie Anna calls me and says “Jacky, it’s your Auntie Anna.” Oh trust me, Auntie Anna. I know it’s you. I would know that voice anywhere.
These aren’t your average hard-headed and head-strong Italian women. These are Romano women. They are a breed unto themselves.
When my great grandmother was told she could no longer go to Florida by herself, she shrugged and said, fine, then I’ll die.
And guess what, despite her good health, she did.
She willed herself to die. Stubborn woman.
The Romano women are the strongest most independent women I have met in my life and I am grateful to count them as family and as role models.
They taught my mom, and later me, how to run a household, how to stand on your own two feet, how to hold your ground, how to support yourself, and how to curse.
They also taught us how to cook. It’s their recipes that I turn to most often.
So the cavatelli.
My mom always cooked for the whole family for Christmas. Aunts, Uncles, Great-Aunts, Great-Uncles, Grandparents, they all piled into our house.
And our house shook with their voices.
And I usually hid upstairs in my room. (Only child, remember?)
Christmas dinner starts at 2 O’clock with antipasti, moves onto pasta around 4 O’clock, continues with Turkey and the trimmings around 6 O’clock and concludes with coffee and dessert some time around 8 O’clock. There is copious amounts of wine necessary in between.
After the marathon of eating, and the even more intense marathon of cooking required to turn out the spread, everyone would contentedly sit back and thank my mom for the meal.
With one exception.
My Aunt Josie was the oldest of my grandma’s siblings. She never married. She worked as a waitress and had a big old house in Orange that everyone at one time or other lived in and that she later rented out to boarders.
She was a pip.
(When we went through her house when she sold it to downsize, there was a sign in one of the drawers that said “Keep the F* out. This means you.” My mom laminated and has it in her office now.)
She looked at my mom one Christmas, after my mom had slaved away over four courses of delicious food, and said, next time, if you want to make the cavatelli the right way…
The right way!
My mom and I will always and forever tease each other and ask the other if she is making the recipe the right way.
Recently I asked her, what is the right way?
She didn’t know.
I called my Grandma. Grandma, what’s the right way to make cavatelli?
Well, this is how I make it, was her response.
Meaning, well, my way is the right way.
I don’t think any of us know the right way to make it anymore, since Aunt Josie left us a few years ago. Maybe she’s making it the right way for St. Anthony. Maybe if we pray to St. Anthony we will find the right way to make it.
(For you non-Italians, Anthony is the Saint you pray to when you lose something. Don’t believe me? Next time you lose something, say “”St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something’s been lost and cannot be found.” I lost the bracelet my boyfriend gave me for our one year anniversary (twice, once in Port Authority and once in Duane Reade) and after praying to St. Anthony, I got it back (twice).
But I don’t want to bother him about the recipe.
Instead, I’ll make it Grandma’s way and I’ll call it the right way.
This is a fantastic recipe for those nights when you think take out is the only option. It’s super fast and pretty much fool proof. And because it can be served hot or cold, it’s also a great recipe to make ahead if you know it’s going to be one of those weeks where you’ll be lucky to get out the door with two matching shoes. You can also dish this out into Tupperware for a grab and go lunch.
For cavatelli and broccoli you will need:
- Olive Oil
See, four ingredients. Super easy. You can add parmesan cheese at the end if you want, but that’s entirely up to you.
Also, this is a one pot meal since you’re going to cook the broccoli and the cavatelli in the same water.
So bring a pot of water to a boil.
Chop the broccoli into bit-size florets and drop into the water once it is boiling.
You don’t want to overcook the broccoli here. You want it to still be crisp. Give it 30 seconds to a minute tops, then scoop out of the water and into a big bowl.
Set aside the broccoli and add the cavatelli to the boiling water.
There is a lot of debate surrounding pasta water. To salt or not to salt?
I’ve seen Scott Conant rip chefs to shreds on Chopped when they don’t salt the water.
So I am going to quietly and quickly say that I don’t salt my water, but it’s because my grandma doesn’t either.
Scott, you can’t yell at my grandma. And you can’t yell at me because I am making this dish her way.
While the cavatelli cooks (follow the instructions on the packet for time), dice up two or three cloves of garlic. We’re not cooking the garlic, so you want as small a dice as possible.
When the cavatelli is cooked, drain and pour the hot pasta over the broccoli.
Drizzle with olive oil to coat and then add the garlic. A few grinds of black pepper can be added, too, if you wish.
Toss to combine. The pasta will warm the olive oil and the garlic and form a sauce that will coat the crisp broccoli and the tender cavatelli.
If you want a burst of freshness, you can squeeze half a lemon over the warm pasta. Or, you can sprinkle over a handful of parmesan. Or you can get crazy and do both.
Serve hot, immediately. Or refrigerate for a cold dish later.
Much as we joke about there being a right way to make the dish, the truth is that the beauty of cooking is that you can take your family’s recipes and make them your own. Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes. Add a twist that’s uniquely yours.
If anyone gives you trouble, you just channel Frank Sinatra and say, Hey, I did it my way!