Making your own shaped pasta like cavatelli or orecchiette (as versus rolling out noodles) is so gleeful, so hilariously liberating, that I can only compare it to being a little kid running naked down the street hollering, “Look at me! Look at me!” It’s just that great. Er… what? You never ran outside naked as a kid? Really? Never? Well, sounds to me like somebody’s got some serious catching up to do. No, don’t take your clothes off–we’re all adults now–the naked-in-the-street developmental train left the station some time ago. But that’s okay–you can still make Homemade Cavatelli with Tomato-Eggplant Sauce. You don’t believe me now, but if you share the joy and invite a friend to help, a friend with a bottle of wine, after seeing each other’s first dozen cavatelli, hilarity will ensue. Nobody’s cavatelli are bad–some are just different–and you do get better, fast.
Spaghetti and Clams with Toasted Bread Crumbs takes its inspiration from two dishes–spaghetti alla vongole, a dish of string pasta with clams popular in Naples, Rome, wider Campania and farther north along the Italian coastline; and pasta con il pangrattato, pasta with breadcrumbs, a very basic dish of la cucina povera, the cooking of the poor. At its most elemental the latter contains no more than pasta, breadcrumbs, oil, salt and a bit of garlic. Variations include raisins, cauliflower, anchovies and olives, which is to say that a little stale bread, some pasta and oil is all you need for dinner–if you have anything else you can dine in the lap of luxury.