3 pesto pastas from Instagram’s favorite nonnas

Viky says: “Mandilli di saea translates to silk handkerchiefs; these large squares of pasta should be very thin and light. And our Pasta Granny who shared her recipe with us is artist Nadia, who lives in the mountains of Liguria near Lumarzo. She wants to live in harmony with nature; she won’t even bother the cobwebs of the spiders because she says they have a job to do. And she’s in the right place to enjoy her surroundings: from her kitchen sink window, she gazes out at the edge of a forest and regularly sees deer and sometimes wolves. She loves growing her own vegetables and cooking from scratch. She even makes her own flour from locally grown whole wheat. it has a wonderful nutty aroma, but don’t worry, you don’t have to! We tested her recipe with 00 flour. If you want to copy Nadia and use your own whole wheat flour, sift the flour first to remove the bran flakes, otherwise your silk handkerchiefs will have a juicier texture.

For 4 to 6 people


For the pasta:

  • 400g flour 00
  • 220g eggs or 4 large eggs

For the pesto:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 70g Italian pine nuts, raw or lightly toasted
  • 60 g Genovese basil leaves
  • 120 ml extra virgin olive oil (ideally mild, grass-flavoured Ligurian oil)
  • 50g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 50g Pecorino Sardo, grated
  • fine sea salt, to taste


Make the egg pasta dough as described on page 11, then let it rest, covered, for a good 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough as thinly as possible; you should be able to read it! This is equivalent to 0.5mm thickness. You can use a pasta maker if you think you can’t handle this.

Dust the sheet of dough with flour then roll it around your rolling pin, take a knife and slice lengthwise through all the layers. The pasta will fall from the pin in rectangular strips that are magically the same width. Stack the strips on top of each other and cut them horizontally to create squares. The exact size will depend slightly on the thickness of your rolling pin, but they should be about 15cm (6in) squares. Well done if they remind you of silk handkerchiefs!

To make the pesto, remove the skin from the garlic clove and cut the clove in half lengthwise. If there is a green sprout (or anima, as the Italians call it), take it out and throw it away.

Put the clove in a mortar with the pine nuts, then crush it with the pestle and grind the two together to get a coarse paste. Wash and dry the basil leaves thoroughly. Add a handful at a time to the mortar, along with a pinch of salt, then pound and grind the leaves into the paste.

Stir in the grated cheeses and soften the mixture with a little extra virgin olive oil; you may not need everything. You now have a thick but stirable pesto. If you want to use an immersion blender or a food processor, the result will be smoother and the flavor very slightly different, but not significant enough to cause grimaces at the table.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta squares, stir and return the water to a boil. They should take about a minute to cook once they come back to a boil, but test one to see. Pour a cup of water into the pan before draining the pasta. Return the racks to the skillet and stir in the pesto, adding a little of the reserved cooking water to crisp it up if needed.

Serve on a nice platter with more grated cheese if you feel like it.

Pasta Grannies: comfort food by Vicky Bennison (£22, Hardie Grant) is out now