One of my very favorite pastas is orecchiette -- pasta rounds shaped like "little ears," which is the Italian translation. Orecchiette is terrific with a wide range of sauces, or even just fresh butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano. However, unlike some pastas, I've never been very satisfied with store-bought, dried orecchiette. It's one of the pastas that's always much better made from scratch.
It's a bit time-consuming, but well worth the effort to make your own orecchiette at home. And, it freezes well for later use. If you decide to freeze it, I recommend placing the fresh orecchiette on floured baking sheets and popping them into the freezer until frozen. Then, you can remove them from the sheets and place them in freezer storage bags and they won't stick together.
2 cups semolina flour
1 Tbs. salt
2 cups (more or less) water
Regular or semolina flour for dusting
Place the semolina flour and salt into a stand-up mixer.
With the mixer on slow speed, add the water a little bit at a time until the dough starts to come together.
When the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl, increase the speed to medium and mix for another minute or so.
Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting surface and knead gently until the dough is silky and smooth -- just a minute or so of kneading will suffice.
Mold the dough into a somewhat rectangular shape. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. You could even make the dough ahead and leave it in the fridge overnight if you'd like.
Remove the wrapper and cut a portion of the dough lengthwise, about a one-inch thickness.
Take the cut piece of dough and gently roll it out on a floured surface, pushing outward toward the ends. Work from the center of the dough and pull toward the ends. The idea is to elongate the pasta dough and make it into an even cylindrical shape.
Sprinkle a little more flour onto the rolled out dough cylinder and, using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4 inch rounds. This is the beginning of the orecchiette shape.
Next, use your thumb to push the rounds into orecchiette shapes. Be sure to flour your thumb so the pasta doesn't stick. Don't worry if every orecchiette isn't perfectly shaped; it'll still taste terrific.
Repeat the process of cutting the dough, rolling it into cylinders, slicing it into rounds, and shaping the orecchiette with your thumb until you've used all the pasta.
Place the finished orecchiette onto lightly floured baking sheets until ready to use or freeze.
Cook the orecchiette in boiling water until just al dente. Fresh orecchiette will cook faster than frozen. Serve with your favorite sauce.