Silk Handkerchiefs with Pesto

Silk Handkerchiefs with Pesto

"Silk Handkerchiefs" with Pesto (Mandilli de Saea al Pesto Genovese)

The pasta squares called mandilli de saea, Genoese for "silk handkerchiefs" (for their size and thinness), are large, paper-thin egg-dough sheets that drape beautifully in the bowl, almost always dressed with pesto. The result is a kind of purity of pasta--certainly less complex than some other Genoese dishes, but with an elegance and grace not ordinarily associated with a plate of noodles. Like other Genoese set pieces, it seems wonderfully anachronistic--deliciously edible link with a fabled past.Christopher Hirsheimer

Mandilli de saea - the name is Genoese for silk handkerchiefs - are delicate, handkerchief-size sheets of pasta, typically tossed with pesto.

Silk Handkerchiefs with Pesto
Mandilli de saea - the name is Genoese for silk handkerchiefs - are delicate, handkerchief-size sheets of pasta, typically tossed with pesto.
Yield: serves 6-8

For the Pasta

  • 3 12 cups flour
  • 12 tsp. salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

For the Pesto

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp. pine nuts
  • Salt
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, preferably small and young
  • 12 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 14 cup freshly grated pecorino sardo
  • 14 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

Instructions

  1. For the pasta, sift flour and salt together onto a large work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour, add eggs, one at a time, working into flour with your hands. Continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
  2. Divide dough into 4 balls. Roll each out as thinly as possible—either on a lightly floured work surface using a rolling pin or with a pasta machine. Cut each sheet into 12 to 14 4'' squares. Set squares aside, layered between clean dish towels.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, pulse garlic and pine nuts with salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add basil and pulse while slowly drizzling in oil. Add pecorino sardo and parmigiano-reggiano and purée, frequently scraping sides with a spatula, until pesto is smooth and creamy. Set aside.
  4. To the boiling water, add 1 tbsp. oil and half the pasta, and cook until pasta is tender, 3–4 minutes. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon, drain in a colander, and toss with half the remaining oil. Repeat with remaining pasta. Dilute pesto with ½ cup of pasta cooking water and purée until creamy, about 1 minute. Gently toss hot pasta with pesto and serve immediately.