When I was celebrating birthdays as a child, my mom would let me choose what I’d like for my special dinner. My choice was always cavatelli, in varying preparations, and this version was always my favorite. My grandmother would make the dough, I’d make the little pasta “bullets” on her well-worn hand-crank machine, and Mom would finish the preparation.

SERVES 4 TO 6

Salt

1 pound homemade cavatelli (recipe follows) or dried store-bought

1 Spanish onion, cut into small dice

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 cups pear tomatoes (red and yellow), halved

2 ounces prosciutto, julienned

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces fresh garden peas, shelled and blanched

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

½ cup (about 4 ounces) ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons julienned fresh mint leaves

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and stir to prevent it from sticking together. Boil the pasta for about 3 minutes, or until it floats to the top.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan set over moderate heat, sauté the onion in the oil for about 1 minute, or until it is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Then quickly add the tomatoes and prosciutto to stop the cooking process.

Season with salt and pepper, and toss gently until the tomatoes wilt and release their juices. Add the peas and toss to mix. Set aside.

When the pasta is ready, drain it, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Toss the pasta in a bowl with the butter, and season with salt and pepper.

Add the tomato mixture to the pasta, and add the reserved pasta water as needed to moisten it. Toss well. Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Add the red pepper flakes, if desired.

Cavatelli

Divide the pasta among warm pasta bowls. Place a nice dollop of ricotta on top of each dish, and garnish with the mint. Sprinkle with some Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired.

MAKES 1 POUND

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup semolina flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 large egg, beaten

8 ounces ricotta cheese

Sift together the flour, semolina, and salt.

Add all the ingredients to a bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.

Knead the dough in the mixer on medium speed until it forms a ball.

Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap the ball in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Form the cavatelli on a cavatelli machine, following the manufacturer’s directions.

Note: Fresh cavatelli are perishable because of the ricotta and eggs in the dough, but will last 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Cavatelli freeze well: wrap them tightly in zip-lock bags and freeze for up to 3 months.