This pasta is from the Puglia region of Italy, the heel of the boot! Capunti come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they're very similar to cavatelli. The biggest difference are the holes that resemble pea pods, this is what the shape is known for. The holes are designed to cup and hold sauce, which make these great with just about anything.
This is another great "on the go" shape because all you need to make it is a knife or a scraper and some counter space. I also love this shape because its really easy to make variations. You can change the starting shape (make it blocky or taper the ends) or roll it against a texture when you finally shape it! Once you master the basic technique there are a lot of options.
one recipe of semolina dough
a butter knife
gnocchi board, cheese grater or colander (optional)
flour or cornmeal
spray bottle or damp cloth
Do not dust your table with flour before shaping this pasta. Unlike egg dough that relies on a smooth dry surface to prevent sticking, this dough needs to be a little wet while you work with it. The stickiness is what allows these shapes to be dragged and stretched along the table, adding flour will make it slide. If you have a ceiling fan on and your dough begins to dry out and just slide along the table use a spray bottle to mist it and the surface you're working or get your hands damp and rub them on the dough. Make sure to keep unused dough covered while you work.
To start, cut about 1/4 of your dough, wrap the rest in plastic and keep covered so it doesn't dry out. Roll the dough into a log, about the width of your pointer finger. You're going to be shaping these with your fingers, so the first thing you have to do is decide how many you're going to use. Scrunch your fingertips together (not counting your thumb) as if you were trying to make all of your fingers the same length, and use that as a measuring guide (two finger widths, three and so on). A good starting width is three fingers, for me thats about an inch and a half. Cut your pieces do the desired length, estimating is a-okay here, you definitely don't need to use a ruler.
Roll one of your cut segments between the palms of your hands using just enough pressure to get rid of the creases from the knife. Place it on the table, then line your three fingers up in a row, and press down directly on the top of the log. Drag the dough, while continuing to apply downward pressure, towards you; you should be about to do about half of a roll. Sometimes the dough is dry enough that the finished capunti pops off your fingers, usually thats not the case, so just carefully peel it off. Place on a flour dusted surface (ideally a dish cloth covered in flour or cornmeal) and repeat until you've finished your dough!
Experiment with applying different amounts of pressure, you want the skin of the pasta to be really thin in the bottoms of the holes. You can see in the picture above that its so thin its translucent! If your capunti are breaking around your fingers ease up on the pressure. The dough can vary in moisture depending on the time of year, its all about balance, it needs to be sticky enough to grip the table, but not so wet that it doesn't stick to your fingers. To stop it from sticking to your fingers I might dust my fingertips with flour, making sure not to dust the table while doing so. You can also try letting the cut segments dry in the air for a few minutes before shaping if they're too wet.
This shape is great because you can make a lot of variations! I love to shape it against textures, instead of pressing it against the table I use a ridged gnocchi board or the inside of a cheese grater. You could also use a sushi mat or any food safe surface with a great texture! Another way you can alter this pasta is by changing the starting shape. Try tapering the ends to create a more spindle shaped piece, once you add the finger marks they look just like pea pods!
Check out the videos below to see the making in action. I've also included pictures of some other capunti I've made (spindles and textures oh my!) PS cooking directions are at the bottom too!
Store the finished capunti on a dishcloth dusted with either flour or cornmeal, don't let them touch or they may stick together. When I'm about halfway through my dough I stop and bring my water to a boil. When its time to cook them I pick up the whole cloth and funnel them directly into the water, this way they don't get squished together like they might if you pick them up by the handful. Make sure to liberally salt your water once it comes to a rolling boil.
These cook up really fast, typically it takes around two minutes depending on the quantity. Once it looks like the majority are floating, scoop one up, give it a taste - it should be good to go. I've made these with a bunch of different sauces, they're a pretty sturdy shape that can handle just about anything.