Silk Handkerchiefs with Pesto
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. Get the recipe for Silk Handkerchiefs with Pesto ». Christopher Hirsheimer
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Mandilli de saea – the name is Genoese for silk handkerchiefs – are delicate, handkerchief-size sheets of pasta, typically tossed with pesto.

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Silk Handkerchiefs 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.

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