When you talk or hear about Italy, among the things that come to mind is pasta. Italy is known for this amazing dish that is preferred for many reasons. Pasta is among the most popular dishes that are enjoyed worldwide. It is not only popular in Italy but also in Mexico, the Philippines, and South Africa, among other countries. One such type of pasta is mafalde.
Among the many reasons why pasta is popular is it is cheap, convenient, and versatile. Also, you can make its accompanying sauce from simple and readily-available ingredients. In this article, you will learn about mafalde’s origin, different varieties, a mafalde pasta recipe, and how to make an amazing sauce to go with it.
Mafalde Pasta Origin and Curiosities
Mafalde, also known as “reginette” (little queens) or mafalda, or mafaldine is a ribbon-shaped pasta. It is wide and flat with a 1 cm width. Its sides come with wavy edges that make it distinctive.
You can prepare mafalde like any other ribbon-shaped pasta such as fettuccine or linguine and serve it with a delicate sauce. There is more to its name and a bit of history about it.
Mafalde was created to honor the birth of the Italian Savoy’s princess, Malfada, the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III, in 1902.
It is said that the princess had alluring curly hair, which inspired the malfade’s wavy ringlets symbol. However, the princess’s life ended in a great tragedy.
In 1934, amidst the II World War, the Nazis tricked Princess Mafalda to agree to get transported from Rome to Berlin for questioning before they detained her in a concentration camp where she eventually died. To commemorate her death, the Italian government had a Princess Mafalda limited edition stamp in 1995.
Saffron is considered one of the most expensive and precious spices globally. It is an essential ingredient in Italian dishes for its aroma, color, and flavor.
Saffron is used in both savory and sweet Italian dishes where a small amount of it goes a long way. You can choose to add saffron to your mafalde pasta or in its accompanying stew or sauce.
Among the most popular saffron, mafalde combinations include creamy sausage and saffron mafalde, and shrimp and sausage pasta with saffron cream sauce.
The best part about mafalde is that you can prepare it fresh in your kitchen. Here is a recipe for preparing fresh mafalde pasta.
- Pasta machine
- 4 big eggs
- 400 g flour
Preparing the Dough
- Begin by making a mound using your flour on a clean work surface or a wooden board. In its center, make a well.
- Crack your eggs into the center, and using a fork, begin whisking them to combine the eggs with the flour while slowly incorporating more flour from the edges of the crater. Do this until you have a thick mixture.
- The dough will get too sticky to mix with the fork, and you should, therefore, use your hands, or use a dough scraper if you own one. Continue incorporating all the remaining flour.
- Proceed to form the mixture into a big ball and start kneading the dough.
- To knead your dough, drag it forward with your palm and use your other hand to hold it steady. Start pulling the stretched dough back over as you turn it around and then start again. Do this until you have a firm and smooth consistency.
- The recommended kneading time is 10-20 minutes to ensure that you end up with a soft and elastic dough. To check whether you have done an excellent kneading job, press your finger into the center. If when you lift your finger the dough springs back up, it is ready.
Resting Your Dough
- Once your dough is ready, it needs to rest before you can proceed with the mafalde pasta-making process. Wrap it in a tea towel, which is a great substitute for a cling film and is more sustainable.
- Set the dough aside and let it rest for around 20-30 minutes at room temperature
Roll the Dough
- After the dough is well rested, start rolling it. For mafalde, you need to ensure that the pasta sheet is very thin. That is why a pasta machine is recommended for this step.
- Divide your ball of dough into two and start with one ball. For dusting, sprinkle some flour over the ball you are working with and use the palm of your hand to flatten it.
- Check your pasta machine setting and set it to its widest setting. It could either be the highest numbered setting or the lowest depending on the machine you are using. Always double-check before starting to ensure that you have it right.
- Feed your pasta dough through the machine while on its widest setting. Repeat the process thrice.
- Change the setting to a narrower one and continue to feed the pasta dough through it again. Do this repeatedly while adjusting the setting with each round until you finally achieve the desired results of a thin pasta sheet. Be cautious to avoid making the sheet extremely thin. You can stop at setting six.
Cutting Your Pasta
- Once the sheet is thin enough, change the attachment on the pasts machine and install the special mafalde cutter.
- Start slicing your pasta sheet into equally-sized pieces that are around 10 inches long. Feed these pieces through the mafalde attachment one at a time to create pasta strands.
- Separate these strands and keep them on a flat surface for drying, which should take around 10 minutes.
Cooking Your Pasta
- Once your pasta is ready for cooking, get a big pot and add generously salted water. Bring it to a boil.
- Cook the mafalde strands in this water for around three minutes
- Remove the pot from the fire, and drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a sauce of your liking and toss gently to coat it evenly.
- Serve immediately while still hot.
Mafalde Pasta Sauce Cacio e Pepe
Cacio e Pepe loosely translated as cheese and pepper are two pantry staples in most Roman pasta dishes. When you add a bit of olive oil, butter, and reserved pasta water, you can transform your pasta dish into a meal with a savory, silky, rich sauce, that everyone will enjoy.
Most people prepare cacio e Pepe with Pecorino Romano cheese, which is a stiff sheep’s milk cheese that features a piquant, sharp flavor. You can combine this traditional cheese with a dash of Grana Padano, a milkier version that mellows out the strong Pecorino.
Using the two best kinds of cheese in Italy to prepare Cacio e Pepe (Cacio is known as Caciocavallo) brings more flavor to the simple pasta dish. However, some people substitute either of the cheeses with Permasan for a creamy and nuttier sauce.
This is how to prepare mafalde pasta sauce cacio e Pepe.
Cook Mafalde Pasta
Put eight cups of water into a Dutch oven or any big stockpot. The water should be shallow since you need it to be extremely starchy. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Uncover it and stir in some salt, and then add your pasta.
Cook the pasta just until it is firm to the bite (al dente). This should usually be a few minutes less than indicated on the package. Keep stirring to ensure that the pasta doesn’t stick. Avoid overcooking pasta since it needs to cook a bit more once you combine it with the sauce.
Make the Sauce
As your pasta is cooking, get a big skillet and melt some butter in it with olive oil over medium heat. While the butter is melting, add some freshly cracked pepper and continue cooking for another minute. This helps bloom the pepper and make the flavor deeper. Remove the skillet from the fire and set it aside as you wait for your pasta to be done cooking.
Reserve Your Pasta Water
While draining your pasta, remember to reserve 11/4 cups of water. Since the water is shallow, carefully tilt your pot to one side to easily fill a measuring cup. Proceed to drain the pasta in a colander and set it aside.
Add the Water
Whisk one cup of the reserved pasta water into the skillet with butter off the heat. Be cautious as it will bubble up. The pasta water is meant to make your sauce glossy and smooth since it emulsifies with cheese and butter. Once you are done combining, let the water/butter rest/stand for three minutes to ensure that your sauce is not too hot to receive the cheese since this may make it seize.
Slowly whisk cheese into your butter water a bit at a time until it’s combined. Turn heat to low and continue whisking the cheese constantly until it’s all melted and smooth.
Take half of the pasta and add it to the skillet and stir to coat it evenly. Add the remaining pasta and proceed to toss it until it is evenly combined. You can add more pasta water if necessary to loosen the pasta.
Once ready, serve your pasta dish warm. You can add more pepper and fresh Pecorino Romano to garnish your dish.
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