Mandilli de Sea With Sugo Finto & Parmesan Crisps

October  8, 2020
7 Ratings
Photo by Meryl Feinstein of Pasta Social Club
  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

As a former omnivore, I often miss cozying up to a bowl of Bolognese in the winter months. In Tuscany, there’s a traditional dish known as sugo finto, or “fake sauce,” which was born out of peasant kitchens where meat was an unaffordable luxury. Sugo finto is a bright combination of vegetables, wine, and tomatoes, and a delicious sauce in its own right—but like a quinoa burger, it never quite satisfies my meaty cravings.

So I set out to make my own meat-free meat sauce. It’s inspired by the technique of a classic bolognese, but uses umami-forward ingredients (Miso! Worcestershire! The miracle that is Beyond Meat!) that are guaranteed to pack a meaty punch. I love it. You’ll love it. Your meat-eating friends will love it.

And I have the perfect pasta to serve it with: a Ligurian shape called mandilli de sea (or mandilli di seta), meaning “silk handkerchiefs.” Although mandilli are traditionally served with pesto, I’ve paired them with this modern sugo finto as an ode to one of my favorite winter meals—lasagna. (Note: For this recipe, you can follow my go-to egg pasta dough recipe, or use the version below with added egg yolks for a richer result. If semolina or semola rimacinata flours are unavailable, omit it and use the same weight in ‘00’ or all-purpose flour.)

This dish has all the luxurious, delicate, savory qualities of a good lasagna, but without the hours spent layering sheets and sauce into a casserole dish. Oh, and to top it off, I’ve added an abundance of paper-thin Parmesan crisps. Because what’s a good lasagna without the crunchy bits?

A couple of final notes to make this dish strictly vegetarian:

- Substitute traditional Worcestershire sauce with a vegetarian version like Annie’s.
- Substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP with a sharp aged cheese made without animal rennet. —Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club

What You'll Need
  • For the sauce & Parmesan crisps
  • 50 grams (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided, plus more for finishing the dish (optional)
  • 450 grams (1 pound) meat alternative of choice, like Beyond Meat or Impossible (I prefer Beyond Meat Hot Italian Sausages)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 fennel bulb or 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 grams (1 tablespoon) tomato paste
  • 50 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) white miso paste
  • 175 milliliters (3/4 cup) dry red wine like Sangiovese
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) Worcestershire sauce (see Author Notes)
  • 225 milliliters (1 cup) vegetable stock
  • 125 milliliters (1/2 cup) whole milk
  • 1 pinch kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 150 grams (2 cups) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (see Author Notes)
  • For the pasta
  • 300 grams (~2½ cups) '00' soft wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams (~¼ cup) semolina or semola rimacinata flour
  • 95 grams whole eggs (about 2 whole eggs)
  • 105 grams egg yolks (about 6 egg yolks)
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon) water, as needed
  1. Start the sauce

    If you’re using Beyond Meat sausages, break them into small pieces so they’re the texture of ground meat.

    In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the “meat.” Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

    Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Follow with the finely chopped vegetables and a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook until the vegetables are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

    Add the garlic and cook briefly until fragrant, no more than a minute. Then add the tomato and miso pastes and stir to combine, mashing the miso with the side of a spoon to melt it down, if needed. Cook an additional 2 minutes or so until the tomato paste darkens, stirring frequently. If the vegetables start to brown, turn down the heat and add a splash of water to deglaze the bottom of the pan.

    Return the “meat” to the pan and mix with the vegetables. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine and Worcestershire sauce. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, add the vegetable stock, and reduce the heat to low.

    Cover and simmer the sauce for about an hour, stirring occasionally. If the sauce looks dry at any point, add another splash of stock to loosen it. While the sauce simmers, make the pasta dough and the Parmesan crisps.
  2. Make the pasta dough

    Make the pasta dough by hand according to the well method (see my master pasta dough tutorial that teaches you how).

    Alternatively, add the flour, eggs, and yolks to the bowl of a food processor with the steel blade attachment. Pulse together until beads of dough start to form and come together, about 30 seconds. If the mixture feels dry, add a tablespoon of water and pulse again. Transfer the dough to a flat, ideally wooden surface, bring it together and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and firm. Note that a yolk-heavy dough is much firmer and less elastic than one with whole eggs.

    Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, make the Parmesan crisps.
  3. Make the Parmesan crisps

    Preheat the oven to 400°F.

    Spread the finely grated cheese on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Aim for a thin, even layer for a crispy rather than chewy texture. The cheese will spread during cooking.

    Bake for 5 to 7 minutes until bubbling and lightly golden around the edges. Allow to cool completely before breaking it apart. If the cheese releases a lot of oil, pat dry with a paper towel once cooled.
  4. Finish the sauce

    Once the sauce has simmered for about an hour, add the milk and stir to combine.

    Cover again and continue to simmer for an additional 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the sauce continues to cook, make the mandilli de sea; when it’s done, season to taste with salt and pepper. Sometimes I add another dash of Worcestershire, too!

    Storage note: If preferred, once the sauce is done, allow it to cool and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for several months. When ready to use, reheat with some pasta water to loosen and a tablespoon of butter.
  5. Make the pasta

    Line a baking sheet with semolina flour, cornmeal, or a dry dish towel and keep it nearby.

    Cut off a quarter of the pasta dough and re-wrap the remainder immediately.

    Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand until it’s about ¼-inch thick. Set your pasta machine to its thickest setting and roll the dough through once—it will be tapered at the ends. Fold the ends into the center like an envelope so the width of the pasta sheet is similar in width to the pasta roller. Roll the dough through the thickest setting once more so the result is a wide, even rectangle.

    Continue rolling the pasta sheet through the machine once on each progressive setting until very thin and you can see your hand through it, about setting 7 or 8 on a Marcato Atlas 150 manual roller or KitchenAid attachment. If the dough is at all sticky going through the machine, dust it with a light layer of ‘00’ or all-purpose flour on both sides.

    Once you have a long, thin sheet of pasta, cut it into 6-inch squares and place them on the baking sheet, making sure not to overlap them.

    Repeat with the remaining dough. You should end up with about 16 squares total.

    Storage note: The mandilli can be frozen and stored for up to a couple of months. Flash-freeze the pasta on the baking sheet, making sure the pieces are not touching, for about 25 minutes until solid (you may need to do this in batches). Transfer the squares to a freezer-safe bag and cook straight from frozen.
  6. Finish the dish

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil next to the saucepan with the sugo finto. Salt the water well and add the mandilli one at a time, in quick succession, to prevent sticking. Stir occasionally. These cook very quickly, about 2 minutes.

    While the pasta cooks, add a small ladle of pasta water and a tablespoon of butter (optional) to the sauce and stir to combine.

    If you can, use a large slotted spoon to transfer the pasta directly to the sauce. Alternatively, set aside a cup of pasta water before draining the pasta and immediately transferring it to the sauce to prevent sticking.

    Stir to coat and simmer the pasta in the sauce for another minute to meld the flavors. Add a splash of pasta water to loosen the sauce as needed. Serve topped with fresh thyme, if desired, and broken Parmesan crisps to get that savory crunch in every bite!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Alex
  • Susanna
  • Tim Yoder
    Tim Yoder
  • Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
    Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
Meryl Feinstein is a chef and pastaia who left the corporate world for the food industry in 2018. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education, Meryl got her start at the renowned New York establishments Lilia and Misi, where she was part of the pasta production team. During that time, Meryl founded Pasta Social Club, a platform that brings people together over a shared love of food, learning, and making connections both on- and offline. She now lives in Austin, where she hosts virtual pasta-making workshops and develops recipes. Her dishes draw on her travels in Italy, ongoing research into the rich history of traditional pasta-making, and her Jewish heritage.

12 Reviews

Sonia D. November 14, 2022
As an omnivore who regularly enjoys meat substitutes, I look forward to trying this; BUT! As it is meant to appeal to the "meatless" crowd, it really should be noted that Worcestershire sauce is NOT vegetarian (it is basically fish sauce--ie, anchovies--with tamarind & a few other things). Perhaps you can find a veg version of Worcester sauce (they do make faux fish sauce), but you'd have to go out of your way to do so.
Leah K. December 4, 2020
Made it with Impossible Burger, this was totally warm and comforting, incredibly delicious!
Alex November 14, 2020
Made this last night and it was simply divine! The recipe is easy to follow along with; did step-by-step and had no problems. (The house also smelled amazing while the sauce was simmering). Cannot wait to try it again!
Meryl F. November 14, 2020
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I always like to make a big batch and keep some in the freezer for that inevitable Sunday when I want a cozy meal but have nothing in the fridge!
Susanna October 16, 2020
Sounds incredible. I’ve never seen the beyond meat Italian sausage—only the spicy breakfast sausage and ground “meat.” Do you think either of those would work? Of course, as an omnivore, I could just go with actual meat sausage...but I do like the beyond products!
Susanna October 16, 2020
Never mind, just found a place to order it!
Meryl F. October 19, 2020
You can absolutely use the ground beef instead, and the Impossible ground beef is great, too. Whatever you can find, I fully support it!
ChrisD October 13, 2020
Was very excited to test this recipe out! I've been looking for a ragù finto recipe for some time now and haven't been very impressed with what's out there. I'm happy to report that THIS ONE WORKS! It's incredible! It's a satisfying umami-rich meaty tasting ragù that leaves nothing to be desired. Try it out!
Meryl F. October 13, 2020
This made my day! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Amazing how far meatless recipes have come!
Tim Y. October 13, 2020
This looks brilliant! I'll definitely be trying this!

As a vegetarian who loves to try to replicate Italian dishes like this one, I'm very thankful for your approach!
Meryl F. October 13, 2020
I'm so glad to hear that, and I hope you enjoy it! This is definitely one of my all-time favorites!
aromaindian October 12, 2020
It is very useful for me.

Please visit Indian Restaurant in Australia.