One of the more interesting pasta varieties I know, fazzoletti or pasta handkerchiefs are also one of the easiest to make. I used to rely on these for restaurant service since you can make large amounts quickly.
If you think making fresh pasta is tedious this is great one to try. Today I'll show you how I make them, and walk you through three different traditional recipes they're used in.
Literally giant squares of pasta, fazzoletti is derived from fazzoletto, the Italian word for handkerchief or face towel. They're also known as mandilli de sea (literally silk handkerchiefs).
How to Make
Make a batch of pasta dough and roll it out as for making lasagna. Make sure to fold the dough over on itself when putting it through the widest setting of the pasta machine. Folding the dough over ensures your pasta sheets will be as wide as possible.
Once the dough is rolled out like a lasagne sheet, you cut it into squares. Any length from 3 to 6 inches is fine. I like to make 4 x 4 squares. Keep in mind the pasta squares will get much larger after you cook them.
These are a versatile pasta and can be used with both heavy and light sauces. Cooking and dressing with a sauce is the tricky part as the large pasta squares are delicate.
The best tip I have is to remove the sheets with tongs when adding to the pan with the sauce. If you drain them in a colander all at once they may stick together.
The large size of the squares means you can do lots of things with them. I describe three traditional recipes below. I also walk you through each one in the video.
Fazzoletti with Ragu
Fazzoletti can hold a heavy sauce and you can use them with everything from Sunday gravy to ragu Bolognese. In the dish pictured I've dressed them with a sauce of wild boar sausage and dried porcini mushrooms.
An obscure pasta from Southern Italy found in Le Marche, Abruzzo, and Lazio (Rome). It's essentially stuffed, baked fazzoletti.
Each pasta square is filled with meat stuffing (typically beef) then topped with tomato sauce and cheese. To finish it's baked golden brown in the same way as lasagna.
Mandilli al Pesto
Lighter than versions with ragu, this pasta with green beans, potatoes and basil pesto is a specialty of Liguria. It's good for the summer when the herb garden is full and fresh vegetables are available.
- For a simple first course or primi piatto, serve these "in bianco" or with butter, a splash of pasta water, lemon zest, and grated parmigiano reggiano. My old chef from Rome would make this when guests asked for a children's menu. Servers loved to order it for dinner.
- Try a light sauce of chopped clams, white wine, butter and herbs.
- A simple tomato basil sauce or salsa di magro (magro means without meat) with browned butter spooned over the top.
Pasta Sqaures with Potatoes and Green Beans (Mandilli al Pesto)
- 1 pasta roller or pasta attachment
- Stand mixer or rolling pin
- 10 inch saute pan
- Mixing bowls
- ½ lb 00 flour *see note or all purpose flour *see note
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 Tablespoons water
- 1 Pinch kosher salt
Pesto Sauce and Vegetables
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup homemade pesto of your choice
- ½ cup pasta water plus more as needed
- 8 oz Yukon gold potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
- 12 oz Green Beans cut into rounds the same size as the potatoes
- 4 Tablespoons Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Grana Padano) plus more for serving
- Fresh basil leaves to garnish
- Fresh lemon zest Grated on a microplane, to taste
- Add the egg yolks, salt and water to a stand mixer or a food processor. Add the flour and mix with the paddle until the dough just starts to come together, adding a little extra water if needed.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead for a minute until the dough is smooth and elastic. Remove the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Cut the dough into quarters. Working on a floured surface, flatten a quarter of dough with a rolling pin and put through the pasta roller, folding it over on itself once or twice to make sure the sides of the dough are flush with the roller to ensure an even sheet of dough.
- Roll the dough sheets out to the second to last setting on the pasta machine.
- Cut the dough into 4 x 4 inch squares and lightly flour them. Keep finished fazzoletti under a towel while you work. I like to flour some of the squares and freeze them in a quart bag for quick meals.
Pesto Sauce and Vegetables
- In a pot of salted boiling water you will cook the pasta in, blanch the potatoes until they're tender and taste good to you. Repeat with the green beans, mix the vegetables together and reserve.
- Heat the oil a large frying pan until hot. Add the potatoes and beans and cook for a minute, then add the cream and half of the pesto and stir. Reduce the sauce for a moment while you cook the pasta.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente (a minute or two) then carefully remove them to the pan with the vegetables. Add aood splash of pasta water, along with the rest of the pesto.
- Inspect the noodles to make sure they’re not sticking together, spooning the sauce into any undressed parts you find. If the pan threatens to get dry, add another splash of pasta water.
- Taste the seasoning and adjust for salt and pepper. Add a few scrapes of lemon zest and a dash of lemon juice, toss in a little parmesan, and serve garnished with leaves of fresh basil.
- Use an interesting pesto you've made. I love stinging nettle pesto with pumpkinseeds and ramp leaf pesto.
- Add tomatoes. Preferably sun dried tomatoes, cut into pieces the same size as the potatoes and beans.
- Add mushrooms, like fresh porcini or whatever you have available. brown them before adding the potatoes and beans.