Fileja (a typical Calabrese pasta) with Italian Spicy Sausage Ragu

Felja with a spicy sausage ragu.

Fileja with ‘nduja ragu

Fileja is a traditional pasta found throughout Calabria. The dough is made of water and flour only. Yes, this pasta contains no eggs or salt. The pasta is shaped by quickly rolling out small pieces of dough around a thin iron rod (a ferro in Italian) and stretched outward. Each region has its own version. For example, fusilli pasta is made in the same way, but rolled in more of a spiral fashion and is typical of Campania. 

This rolling out technique can be a little tricky, but easily mastered with practice. Please see the video below for a quick demonstration.

Rolled out fileja

Rolled out fileja

The main concern when making this pasta is the consistency of the dough.  It is crucial to have a dough that is not too moist so it does not stick to the metal rod when rolling out. Conversely, you do not want a dough that is too dry; it will not roll and stretch properly around the iron and can be very difficult to work with.  Needless to say the recipe below is very good and works consistently every time.

Tip: Do not add all the water at once. 

I add about 3/4 of a cup of water and knead the dough together, either by hand on a smooth work surface or in a stand mixer.  I add a few more drops of water, only as needed, to bring the dough together.  Remember, the type of flour and its freshness, and the humidity will determine how much liquid you’ll need to use. Eventually you will have a feel for this dough.  The next important step is the kneading.  This is best done by hand so you can feel the texture and create a smooth homogeneous pasta dough.   You will have to roll your sleeves up and work it!  As you knead it, you will notice that the dough will become lighter in color and smoother.  This is exactly what you’re looking for.  I knead for at least 5-7 minutes.  Then I wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Tip: Leave the dough out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before rolling out your fileja. 

This will help the pasta roll out and stretch easier.  When rolling out the pasta, I work on a clean surface. Then I VERY LIGHTLY flour my work area ONLY if the pasta is slightly sticky.  Too much flour will make the pasta very difficult to roll on the work surface. It will wind up sliding around, rather than gripping the work surface and nicely stretching around the wire to make those typical fileja or fusilli shapes.  Eventually you will get the knack of it.  It’s all about having fun! 

Fileja is usually served with spicy ragu made with ‘nduja, a spreadable cured pork and hot Calabrian pepper sausage.

'Nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork salumi from Calabria.

‘Nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork salumi from Calabria.

It is very typical of Calabria, but nearly impossible to find in the United States.

Spice Italian sausage ragu for our felja.

Spicy Italian sausage ragu for our fileja.

However, a nice spicy Italian sausage from your local butcher or supermarket will be a good substitute.  That is what I made in the above photo.

 

(See video below for rolling procedure)

Lunchtime in Tropea.

Lunchtime in Tropea, Italy

Buon Appetito!

 Video: How to roll out fileja pasta.

 

I recently gave a pasta making class and fileja and one of the pastas that I taught the group to make.  You can read more about the class here. And be sure to view the video at the end of this post where I demonstrated for the class how to roll fileja and fusilli pasta. And gave them a tip on how to carefully remove it from the iron (ferro) if it sticks.