The hot weather in LA + the news of brush fires and their warnings brought back a quick memory of a peculiar pasta dish made in the Italian region of Puglia.
It was and still is the custom on the Tavoliere Plain, which extends from the Ofanto River all the way to Molise, to burn the wheat stubble after reaping. The remaining burnt grains of wheat were gathered and ground into a black flour. It is difficult to find anymore but can be made by roasting grains of wheat. This dish is rooted in the traditions of the poorest rural families.
The recipe below is for the cavatelli with a tomato sauce. This recipe is the exacto one made at the Slow Food School in Jesi, but remember a recipe is just writing on some paper (or a computer screen now) - it may need a little extra love on your side!
CAVATELLI DI GRANO ARSO CON POMODORO E RICOTTA DURA
(Burnt Wheat Cavatelli with Tomato and Hard Ricotta)
300g. burnt wheat flour
400g. puréed tomatoes
100g. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
200g. hard ricotta
salt and water
For the pasta:
Combine the burnt wheat flour and water to obtain a soft dough. Make small ropes, 1cm wide and 2-3cm long and hollow them out with two fingers.
For the tomato:
Sauté the garlic in a pan with some olive oil and add the puréed tomatoes.
Cook the cavatelli in plenty of boiling salted water. When done, serve with the tomato sauce and a handful of grated hard ricotta.
This dish has the strong decisive flavours of the burnt wheat as well as of the tomato and hard ricotta. It will therefore need a young red wine with a good structure such as a San Severo Rosso.
Given the difficulty in finding the burnt wheat flour, white flour may be substituted.
If instead of making the pasta pieces 2-3 cm long, they were made only 1cm long, they would then be called “cicatelli”.
When I made the pasta using the Grano Arso, the Arso flavor was so intense that we had to cut it with normal flour - I recall a 250 g. ARSO to 150 g. "OO"