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Pink Ombre Gravellus Pasta

Photos and recipe by Cathrin Simon


Valentine’s Day is coming up and as we say in Europe, love goes through the stomach. What a motivation to put together a romantic meal for someone you care for deeply. Or even better: to plan an evening in together as a pasta-making date night. Whatever you choose, this pasta is guaranteed to be love at first sight!

Gravellus is a pasta type from Sardinia. Like so many Sardinian pasta shapes, it is made with semolina dough. I love working with semolina dough, it is rather simple to prepare so you can put all of your creativity into the shaping of the actual pasta. 

Below you’ll find the basic semolina recipe, but of course, the real twist of this pasta recipe is that it works with several shades of pink semolina dough that are layered to create an ombre look. The variations of pink are achieved by adding increasing amounts of beetroot powder to the portions of dough you are preparing. From blush pink to full-on red velvet, you can tweak to your desire. 

Note: you can of course also use this technique for other veggie powders you might want to add to your semolina dough: turmeric, spinach, or spirulina would all work very well.

The shape of gravellus pasta is inspired by wild carnation flowers. The traditional method is to cut long rectangles with the Sardinian brass cutter and then roll them with one side tightly squeezed together and the other opening up like a flower. The method I share here works with a few tweaks to make the shape accessible even when you don’t have a Sardinian brass cutter, and is also somewhat simpler to make. 

I like to serve gravellus pasta with a simple sauce so as to not draw attention away from this delicate shape. For this Valentine’s dish we will infuse some good quality olive oil with roasted garlic and blanched basil leaves to drizzle over the flowers once cooked.

Pink Ombre Gravellus

4 servings

Prep time: 45 Minutes, plus 30 minutes resting
Cook time: 5 Minutes

Special Equipment:

Ingredients

For the pasta:
4 x 100 grams semolina flour (preferably semolina rimacinata), divided
30 grams dried beetroot powder, divided into portions of 5, 10, and 15 grams
4 x 50 grams lukewarm water, divided

For the garlic-basil sauce:
3½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic
1 handful of fresh basil leaves

Method

To make the dough:

Note: For the sauce, preheat your oven to 320℉ (160℃) Once preheated, place the complete head of garlic inside and let it roast for 30-40 minutes until soft.

You will make four separate pasta doughs. You can make these one after another or work on them simultaneously if you’re making this dish with more people.

For each dough, place 100 grams of semolina flour into a metal or glass bowl (note: usually, I advise wooden equipment for pasta dough but in this case, a non-stainable material works better to prevent the beetroot from leaving color on the wood). For each of the four doughs, you will add a different amount of beetroot powder: the first will be purely the semolina flour, for the second, third, and fourth doughs respectively you’ll add 5, 10, and 15 grams of beetroot powder.

Note: Try to follow the order of plain dough first while increasingly darker doughs follow, so you don’t accidentally get color from a darker dough incorporated into the lighter dough from stained equipment.

Mix the dry ingredients well with a fork and then create a little well in the center. Add 50 grams of lukewarm water to the center and use your fork to incorporate some of the dry ingredients. The water will quickly thicken up. When you approach a custard-like consistency, start working the remaining dry ingredients in by scooping them over the center with your fingertips and pressing down. Repeat from all angles until there’s no loose semolina flour left. Now turn the dough onto a cutting board (again, being mindful of potential staining when you choose which cutting board to use) and start kneading the dough, for at least five, preferably 10 minutes.

Repeat the same process for the remaining doughs. From kneading the first dough without any beetroot, you’ll know what consistency you are trying to achieve. Add a few spritzes of water to the other portions of dough while kneading if you feel they dry. Wrap your dough portions in a lightly moistened kitchen towel, being careful not to let them touch each other, and let them rest for at least 30 minutes.

To create the pink ombre shades:

Once rested, flatten out the plain semolina dough with your fingers. If it feels slightly sticky, dust it with some extra semolina, then feed it through the thickest setting on your pasta machine a few times, folding it in half before every round to achieve a rectangular shape. Then move on to feed your dough through the next two or three settings on your pasta machine. You are trying to create a rather thick pasta sheet. Repeat the same with the remaining three dough portions, aiming for similar proportions.

Note: You can also roll out the dough with a rolling pin.

Layer the 4 dough sheets atop each other, in increasing shades of darkness. If your dough is on the drier side you might want to spritz on some water to ensure they stick to each other. Use a large, sharp knife to cut this thick four-layered sheet into sections, about the width of one finger, and layer these sections on top of each other, again with the potential help of some water spritzes for better adhesion.

Place this tower flat on your working board, then use a rolling pin to gently press down and start flattening it out into a pasta sheet. Then carefully feed it through the thickest setting of your pasta machine twice, then through the next three or four settings as well. Your pasta sheet should now be rather thin and beautifully shaded in pink.

To shape the gravellus:

Place your pasta sheet on a cutting board and cut out circles using a round pasta stamp, a round cookie cutter, or even the rim of a glass. Carefully remove the excess dough (you can scrunch it together and feed it through the pasta machine once more for marbled pasta sheets).

One by one, take the pasta circle into your hand, fold it halfway, then quarter it and squinch the end together between thumb and index finger. With your other hand, open up the petals of the flower and place it on a tray lined with a kitchen towel.

To prepare the infused olive oil and serve the pasta:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Once boiling, add the basil leaves for half a minute, then fish out with a skimmer. Combine the olive oil, roasted garlic (press the cloves out of the roasted head), basil leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper and blend them in a food processor.

Now submerge the gravellus in the water and let them boil for 3-5 minutes. The exact boiling time will depend on the thickness of your pasta. After 3 minutes, you can take out one piece and cut through it: if you still see lighter colored, dry-looking dough in the middle, they will need a bit longer. You can of course also assess by tasting the pasta. When done, drain your pasta and serve them with a drizzle of infused olive oil.

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