Trofie, these little funny shaped egg-free pasta, are a classic of the Ligurian kitchen. Easy to make, no need of a pasta machine. It may be a little time consuming to roll them all, but the result is worth the effort. They are the ideal pasta for the pesto, since their twisted shape catches the sauce very well.

This recipe is a variation of the classic pasta with pesto, given to me by my friend Stefania. The sweetness of the potatoes marries perfectly with the strong flavour of the pesto, and its softness contrasts nicely with the unusual texture of the trofie.

Ingredients for 4 portions:

For the trofie:

  • 300gr of fine semolina
  • 150gr of water

For the pesto:

  • 70gr of basil leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp of pine nuts
  • 10 tbsp of good quality grated parmesan
  • 120ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sized floury potato (about 250gr)
  • Salt according to taste
Trofie
Trofie
 

Method:

To make the Trofie:

1. Put the semolina in a bowl, create a well in the middle and pour 120gr of water into it. Beat with a fork, incorporating the semolina little by little, until it becomes too hard to work with the fork. If not all the flour has been absorbed, add a little more water, until all the semolina has been absorbed by the dough.

2. Take the dough out of the bowl and work it on a clean table surface. Knead it vigorously for at least 10 minutes. In case the dough is too dry, add some more water. Be careful not to make the dough too elastic, as it will become gooey once cooked: you want a firm dough, elastic enough to work. If the dough is too soft, add more semolina. As a general rule, the proportion is 50gr to 70gr of wet ingredient (water or egg) for 100gr of dry ingredient (semolina or flour). Each flour is different and will have its own absorbing power, so it is important to be careful and add the water slowly.

3. Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest for at least 30 minutes, ideally 1 hour, in a cool and dry place.

4. Take the dough and divide it in several small workable sections. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to form ropes of 2-3 mm diameter, then cut the ropes in segments of about 3 cm each.

5. To shape the trofie, lightly flatten each dough segment, hold it by its extremities and twist it until completely rolled upon itself. Continue until all the dough is shaped. Let it dry for about 30 minutes on a clean cotton tablecloth, or on a lightly floured wooden surface.

Pasta dough
Pasta dough
 

To make the pesto:

1. Remove the basil leaves from the stalk, discarding any leaf that is bruised or broken. Wash them and let them dry completely on a cotton towel. Do not try to pat them dry as they might break and lose flavour.

2. Peel the garlic and put it in a food processor together with the pine nuts. Blend thoroughly.

3. Add the basil and the grated parmesan and pulse a few times until everything has blended. Be careful not to overwork it, as the heat caused by the blade will cook the basil and it will lose flavour.

4. Transfer the mix into a bowl and add the oil little by little, stirring well with a wooden spoon until smooth and even. According to taste, less or more oil can be used to prepare the pesto, resulting in a thicker or runnier sauce. Season to taste.

To complete the dish:

1. Peel the potato and cut it in small cubes. Put them in a pot of salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes.

2. Add the trofie and cook for further 3 minutes. Set aside a ladleful of the cooking water, and then drain the pasta.

3. Put the pasta in a large bowl, add the pesto and mix well. In case the pasta results a little dry, stir in some of the reserved cooking water.

4. Serve immediately with plenty of grated parmesan and a glass of chilled Vermentino.