Ligurian Learning:
how to make trofie pasta shapes


Ligurian trofie from the North West of Italy are one of my very favorite pasta shapes.

trofie pasta trofie al pesto

They are also one of the easiest to make fresh from scratch, as there are no eggs involved. Instead these vegan-friendly treasures are made just using widely-available 'semolina' (durum wheat) flour, water and a little salt.

Trofie originally hail from a charming fishing village called Camogli (below), which is close to the town of Rapallo on Italy's Ligurian coast. In this picture-perfect village all Camogli's buildings face the sea, the idea being that, this way, the fishermen's wives would always be able to look out for their hubbies coming home. And what would these ladies do while sat on their balconies? Why they'd roll trofie pasta shapes on their knees of course!

trofie pasta trofie al pesto

The local way of serving trofie is to smother them in another Ligurian speciality, fresh green basil pesto, to product a dish called locally trofie al pesto. However trofie suit other chunky tomato-based sauces too, so you could go for a ragu sauce or beefy bolognese sauce instead. Just so long as your sauce is equal to the firmer pasta you get from trofie's semolina flour approach.

If more adventurous, you could even make what my mamma-in-law Marisa served the first time I spent Christmas with her. It's named trofie alla Portofino after the popular tourist village where celebs like Rod Stewart sometimes jump off their superyachts, again on Liguria's stunning coast.

This dish is effectively one portion of pasta but made up of two different-colored half-portions: one red (covered in tomato sauce) and the other green (using pesto). It really looks the business, and any dish in which you get such a variation of flavors and scrummy pasta has got to be good!

Serves: 2 (or 4 as a primo piatto starter)


200g/7oz durum wheat semolina flour (‘semola di grano duro’ in Italian). Available on Amazon US here

150ml/5 US fluid ounces lukewarm water


STEP 1 - First we make the pasta dough. Don't worry - this is the easiest kind, without eggs.

- On a clean work surface or pastry mat, form the flour into a large bowl shape.

trofie pasta trofie al pesto

- Pour a little of the water into the center and use a fork to pull in a little flour from the sides.

- Mix this with the fork until the liquidity disappears.

- Then add a little more and repeat.

trofie pasta trofie al pesto

- Follow this process until the water is finished.

- Then use your fingers to continue binding the mixture until a rough dough forms.

(If still very wet after the water is done, sprinkle on a little more semolina flour as you go).

STEP 2 - With a rough ball of dough formed, flatten this with your palms.

- Now on the worktop, fold the dough over itself, press it with your palm to flatten it again, then turn it 90-degrees and repeat.

trofie pasta trofie al pesto

- Repeat this fold n' turn process for 5-10 minutes, which softens and elasticating the dough by trapping tiny bubbles of air inside.

The aim? When you can press a finger into the dough and its shape slowly 'springs' back, it's ready.

- Flour the dough ball lightly and leave it to breath for 5 minutes.

STEP 3 - Now it's time to turn this dough ball into delicious little twirls of trofie pasta.

First we turn it into little cubes...

- Chop a chunk off the dough ball.

- Roll this into a 1cm/half-inch deep sausage using your hands (tip - flour on your work surface does not help your sausage to roll so wipe it away).

trofie pasta trofie al pesto

- Moving from right to left/vice versa, chop this sausage into small cube(ish) shapes (the same width as depth).

trofie pasta trofie al pesto

STEP 4 - And now we twirl it to make the shapes! (also see video guide above)

- Lightly flour your hands and place one pasta chunk at the base of your upturned palm.

- Now use the end of your other hand's index and second finger (the two next after your thumb) to press firmly into the dough ball and roll it forwards off the end of your hand.

Tip: the approach above works fine for ladies with smaller hands, however for me the dough can get stuck between the larger gaps between my upturned palm's fingers. Therefore what I do is to place the dough in the middle of my upturned palm and just roll it approximately 3 times with the center of my other flattened palm (see video above). Like rolling a sausage in your hands in fact - just don't overdo it, a quick roll and done.

The aim? To make small squiggle shaped pasta shapes roughly 5-8cm/2-3 inches in length.

- Repeat this rolling process until all the pasta is through!

Done - you made Ligurian trofie!

When you've decided on your sauce, just boil up the trofie in well-salted water until they rise plus 3-4 minutes more, then drain.

To serve: as mentioned above, either make some fresh 5-minute pesto for trofie al pesto, or choose any chunky tomato-based or meat-based sauce.

trofie pasta trofie al pesto

Other pasta shapes you might like making:

Penne/garganelli (also an easy shape to make)

Ravioli (for impressing dinner guests!)

Farfalle (to keep the kids amused)

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