Friday, January 5, 2018

Handmade Orechiette with Tomaresca Neprica #ItalianFWT

This month the Italian Food Wine & Travel group to which I belong is traveling - by table and goblet - to Puglia with Katarina of Grapevine Adventures leading the event. You can read her preview post: Wine Between Two Seas in Puglia

About Puglia
From the map you can see why she calls it 'between two seas'. Puglia forms the heel of Italy's boot. Though I never made it to Puglia in the 13 months I lived in Rome - blush, blush - I will definitely add it to my list of places I want to visit. Boasting almost 500 miles of coastline, this seaside-loving gal would be very content to find a beach, uncork a bottle, and read a book. Many books...with many bottles of wine!

But I have always been intrigued by the trulli, white mushroom-shaped dwellings from the Middle Ages, in Alberobello. One of these days, I'll make it there.

With a population of just 4 million, the region provides nearly half of the country's olive oil, approximately 300,000 metric tons each year. And while famous for its olive oil, recent years have brought Puglia to the forefront with its red wine varieties.

Deeper Explorations of Puglia

In My Glass
Though Katarina lined up a wine sponsor for the event, the shipments weren't received in time, so I went on the hunt for my own Pugliese wine and came up with this bottle, a 2010 Neprica from the Tomaresca estate. I had to laugh when I realized that Neprica was simply the first few letters of each of the grapes in the red wine blend. 'Ne' from the Negroamaro grape that comprises 40% of the blend; 'Pri' from the 30% Primitivo addition; and 'Ca' from the Cabernet Sauvignon that makes up the remainder of the fruit in the wine.

This vintage was named one of the 'Top 10 Best Bargain Wines in the World' by Food & Wine Magazine. And, was it well-deserved, you ask? Yes, yes it was. I found this bottle at my local BevMo store for just under $12 and I wish I had purchased more. It's a great everyday-priced wine that tastes much more expensive.

It's a mid-weight red - not too light, not too heavy. With vibrant fruit on the tongue and flowers and spices on the nose, it'll be a solid addition to my wine rotation and something to uncork with just about any pasta dish we make!

On My Plate
Speaking of pasta, one very traditional Pugliese pasta is orechiette whose name means 'little ears.'

You can sort of see that shape here, right? Well I've always bought pre-made orechiette, but the boys were still out of school on Winter Break, so I decided to rope them into making it for me. They did a great job. And, now that I know how easy it is to make, I will certainly be making these more often. I love that they are hand-formed, so I don't have to get out - and, then clean - my pasta roller.

makes approximately 7 or 8 dozen

  • 2 C semolina flour
  • 1 C all-purpose flour + more for rolling
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 C warm water
  • 1 to 2 T olive oil
  • Also needed: food processor, wax paper, butter knife, parchment or silicone-mat lined baking sheets


You can do the blending by hand, but I did it in my food processor. Place the semolina and flour in the bowl of your food processor. Place the lid on top and open up your chute. Pour in about 1/4 C water and pulse. Repeat until you have used all the water or the dough begins to come together in a ball. Pour in the olive oil and pulse to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board or table. Gently knead until the dough feels smooth. You can wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest - or not. We didn't.

Roll the dough out into a thick rope.

Then cut the rope into 1/2" pieces. Now you're to the fun part!

With floured hands, roll your knuckle into the dough to form the 'ear'.

Roll the ear off of your palm and place it on a floured baking sheet.

Repeat until all of the dough is used. Now you can cook it immediately or let it air dry for later. We cooked it the night we rolled them.

Bring water to a boil and cook the orechiette in batches. These will take about 8 to 9 minutes to cook. It's a little bit longer than other fresh pastas, but it's worth the wait.

To serve, drain and toss with your favorite sauce. For this dinner, I split the batches and made one with fresh pesto for me and the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and a salmon-cream sauce for Jake and the Precise Kitchen Elf.

The wine was delicious with both! Cin cin. Next month, Lynn of Savor the Harvest will host. Stay tuned for the theme.


  1. I am going to have to make my own orecchiette now that I see how easy it is. Thanks Cam.

    1. Yes, it was super easy...and the boys said that it was even easier than gnocchi.

  2. Your boys make it all look so easy! It's so fun that cooking is such a part of your family time - I love it.

    1. I figured it was my duty to teach them since my husband can't cook a thing!

  3. Bravo to your boys for making beautiful handmade orecchiette! That's it...I'm inspired to make them by hand next time! BTW - I don't think I've ever heard of "Neprica" before, but if I see it I will feel very savvy knowing what it is now that I've read this! Great post!

    1. Thanks, Tracy. Making orechiette is SO easy. My boys say it's easier than gnocchi.

  4. We just started making our own pasta this year, and now I’m excited to try this version. My kids love making it, especially when they have friends over.

    Thanks for explaining the details here!