'Mandilli de Sea' (silk hankerchiefs) - fresh pasta dough and creamy mushroom sauce


Mandilli de sea means 'hankerchiefs of silk' in Genovese dialect, and in the case of this recipe we're talking about super-thin fresh pasta dough with a special treat inside - aromatic flat-rolled parsley leaves.

mandilli de sea pasta dough

This dish was taught to me by the fantastic and ever-patient chef Catia Saletti of the wonderful Trattoria dei Mosto restaurant in Liguria (on the North West coast of Italy).

This dish is very much her specialty. She combines these intriguing pasta dough creations with a gloriously creamy mushroom pasta sauce, which is a favorite with locals from miles around.

I first visited Catia's place after hearing my Mamma Marisa rave about this specific mushroom pasta. And when I suggested trying it, she didn't blink at the idea of a half-hour drive just to get to the restaurant. In fact her and hubby Gianni seemed delighted to have any excuse to go eat this dish again. They weren't wrong about it either - it's pretty special.

Luckily for me, the next time we visited Catia kindly agreed to spend an hour with us before service, explaining exactly how to make this dish and several other recipes besides (you can read the full class report in issue 22 of my Pastastic! newsletter).

On the page below we'll cover each part of the mandilli de sea equation: making the fresh egg pasta dough, creating the parsley-filled mandilli, and then whipping up the surprisingly simple porcini mushroom sauce. The result is a special pasta dish I really think you'll love.

mandilli de sea pasta dough

Serves 4 (as primo piatto starter, 2-3 as main)


For the fresh pasta

300g/10.5oz plain/general-purpose flour (ideally 'double zero' superfine type)

5 eggs

10-15 flat-leaf parsley leaves (15-20g/0.7oz pack)

For the mushroom sauce

Knob of butter

Pinch of flour (see above)

20-25g/0.8oz dried porcini mushrooms

Half good size red onion

Garlic clove

10 more of the parsley leaves

100ml/3.5 fl oz full fat cream

Extra virgin olive oil

Dried oregano

STEP 1 - Drop the mushrooms in a large bowl of warm water to soak. This hydrates them, bringing them 'back to life'.

mandilli de sea

- De-stalk, rinse and shake to dry the parsley leaves.

STEP 2 - Now for our fresh pasta.

- Form the flour into a large bowl shape on a clean flat worktop or pasta mat.

- Break in 3 of the eggs and add the yolks of the remaining 2 eggs.

mandilli de sea

- Use a fork to carefully whisk the bowl's eggs into a smooth orange mixture.

- Use your fingers to mix together the egg mixture and flour walls, using all the flour and mixing well until a dough starts to form.

Tip: if the dough continues sticking to your hands after you've used all the flour, sprinkle on a little more to reduce moisture, as necessary.

STEP 3 - Once your dough ball has formed, lightly re-flour your work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough flat.

- Keep turning and occasionally flipping the dough. Don't worry about creating a circular dough shape: square or rectangular is actually better for our needs here.

- With the dough as flat as you can get it (approximately 10 minutes of rolling later!), place the full parsley leaves on one half of the dough (shown below).

mandilli de sea

- Then simply fold over the other half and roll for another five minutes or so, until the dough is very thin and almost translucent, its parsley shapes highly visible when held up to the light (carefully!).

mandilli de sea

mandilli de sea

STEP 4 - Use a ravioli cutter (or sharp knife) to roughly cut the pasta into random sized pieces (a good average size being maybe a square of 3x3 inches or 9x9cm).

Note: these type of shapes are really no different to maltagliati, which literally means 'badly cut' pasta.

- Line a tray or surface with greaseproof baking paper and pop the shapes on this to dry (while we make the sauce).

mandilli de sea

STEP 5 - Now here's how to make that magically creamy mushroom pasta sauce.

- Grab the porcini and squeeze out their excess water, but keep the water in the bowl (we'll need it).

- Use a sharp chopping knife or 'mezzaluna' (half moon) knife to chop the porcini very, very finely. Then do the same with the red onion.

mandilli de sea

- Next, finely chop the half the garlic clove and around 10 more leaves of parsley. Mix these two ingredients together and keep for later.

- Pop a generous glug (6-8 tablespoons) of olive oil into a frying pan, along with a heaped tablespoon of butter and a pinch of your pasta flour.

- Crank up the heat to medium and when butter starts to melt, whisk it all rapidly (using a whisk if you have it). This avoids lumps forming.

- When the butter has completely melted, add the onion, cook for 2 mins more, then add all the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and another of oregano.

- Mix well, add half a cup of water from the mushrooms' bowl, plus the garlic and parsley mix, and fry until most of the liquidity has gone.

- Finally, mix in the cream and heat a minute more (until the sauce darkens a little).

mandilli de sea

STEP 5 - With the sauce off the heat, just cook up your pasta, in a large pan of well salted water. (When it rises to the surface, give it just a minute or two more.)

Drain the mandilli and serve smothered in the moreish porcini sauce.

Welcome to the world of Ligurian pasta!

Did you enjoy 'mandilli de sea'?

Then why not try...

Soupy mushroom pasta with saffron and chickpeas

• This deluxe mushroom ravioli recipe

• More fresh pasta recipes

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