The pasta world is a world of seemingly infinite variety. The sheer volume of the different pasta shapes made, cooked and eaten around the globe never ceases to amaze me. Growing up in North America, I was familiar with the rotinis, penne and bow ties (farfalle) of the world. I didn’t know just how tiny my pasta knowledge was until I began cooking in earnest. And honestly, when I learned of my ignorance, I was floored. Strozzapreti, pici, lanterne; these were completely foreign and wonderful to me. I mean, really, when orecchiette is a novelty to you, you’re due for quite the education. The best part of my ongoing schooling is whenever I think I’ve got this pasta thing on lock, a new variety finds a way of grabbing my attention. Such was the case with today’s Handkerchief Pasta with Pistachio Arugula Pesto.
I had never heard of handkerchief pasta (mandilli de saea) until the most recent issue of SAVEUR magazine told me all about it. And when I saw this pasta I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The rustic charm of it. The ethereal silkiness. I knew I had to try my hand at making it. But you won’t find that recipe below. Instead, you’ll find a much improved, very nerdy recipe for handmade pasta authored by yours truly.
What inspired me to abandon my long-standing go-to pasta recipe that brought us such stunners as these? Boredom. Well, I also recognized that I needed to be able to roll handkerchief pasta incredibly thin and I had a feeling that a 100% semolina dough wasn’t going to allow me to do that. But mostly boredom.
In a very un-Susan move, I decided to be analytical about my reappraisal of my pasta recipe. I decided I was going to learn what structural properties each potential ingredient brought to the table and cobble together a recipe that would suit my needs. Thankfully, I’m not the first to obsess about such things and I owe a lot to this deeply nerdy pasta ingredient breakdown from SeriousEats.
I knew that the Handkerchief Pasta would have to have 00 flour because it is so finely milled. This fine texture would increase the workability of the dough. The dough had to be thinner than any other pasta I had ever made before, so its cooperation was a must. But I really didn’t want to nix the semolina altogether. I like the flavor of it and I find sauce more readily coats pasta made with semolina and (surprise) I like pasta coated in delicious sauce.
The next question was the eggs. I had been making my pasta with four whole eggs, but heeding the advice of SeriousEats, I determined this was a mistake. The richness and flavor comes from the yolks. The whites are not useless, they do provide a lightness to the finished dough, but they don’t bring the taste, so definitely not as important as the almighty yolk. I figured if I only added two whole eggs, I could add four yolks without throwing off the liquid to dry ingredients ratio. This would result in a more vibrant and flavorful dough. I think I was right.
So, that’s how we got to this ultra-thin, parsley packed Handkerchief Pasta. In Genoa, where Mandilli de Saea (silk handkerchiefs) hails from, they serve it coated in Genovese pesto. Due to the pinenut allergy I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I opted to make a pistachio arugula pesto. My herb of choice was parsley because I wanted something with a refreshing, clean taste to echo the light, airy nature of the pasta.
Ugh! You made it through. I can’t believe you’re still here! This post should be a monument to overthinking and I didn’t even get to how much extending the rest time of my pasta dough, like, *changed* my life. I will spare you the backflips over that particular discovery and instead leave to read the damn recipe.
Handkerchief Pasta with Pistachio Arugula Pesto & Crispy Parsley
- 170 g 6oz 00 flour
- 170 g 6oz durum semolina
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 whole eggs divided
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/8 cup fresh parsley leaves
Pistachio Arugula Pesto
- 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 cup fresh arugula tightly packed
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley tightly packed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- Parmesan cheese
- Chopped Pistachios
- Fresh arugula
For the Pasta
- Whisk the 00 flour, semolina and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the mixture onto a clean, cool counter top. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
- Place 2 of the eggs and all of the egg yolks in the well and add the water. Beat the eggs and water together using a fork.
- Start pulling the dry ingredients into the wet until a dough begins to form.
- Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes or until firm but silky to the touch.
- Tightly wrap the dough in plastic warp and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Unwrap the dough and divide into eighths.
- Using a KitchenAid pasta attachment, roll each section of the dough to the second to last setting (#7 on my attachment). Handle the dough with care - it will tear very easily.
- Brush half of each strip of pasta with the remaining egg, lightly beaten. Arrange the parsley leaves on top of the egg wash and fold the untouched half of the pasta over top. Run your hands firmly over top of the pasta to force any air out and to create a seal. Trim any rough edges and cut the pasta into 3x5-inch rectangles. Dust with flour and set aside until ready to cook.
For the Pesto
- While the pasta dough is resting, make the pesto. Place the pistachios and garlic in a large food processor. Blitz until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- Add the arugula, cheese, parsley, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes and blitz.
- With the food processor running, stream in the olive oil and lemon juice. Blitz until a thick paste forms.
- Transfer the pesto to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat.
- While waiting for the water to boil, heat the canola oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the remaining parsley and fry until browned but not burnt. About 1 minute.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the parsley to a plate lined with paper towel. Immediately sprinkle with a little salt.
- Return the skillet with the residual oil to the heat and add the pesto. The pesto will melt into the oil. Leave the pan at a low temperature while you cook the pasta.
- Liberally salt the now boiling water and add your pasta. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes or until tender.
- Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the pasta from the water to the skillet with the pesto.
- Add a ladle or two of the pasta water and toss the pasta to coat.
- Transfer the dressed pasta to 4-6 plates and garnish with fried parsley, Parmesan cheese, chopped pistachio and additional arugula.