Mafaldine with buttery, caramelized cabbage, chili flakes, capers, and lemon is an addicting pantry pasta recipe you didn't know you needed! It's so savory and comforting.
Have you ever tried mafaldine pasta? Also known as mafalda, or reginette, mafaldine is a gorgeous ribbon-like dried pasta with wavy edges similar to the edges of a sheet of lasagna. Mafaldine is wide and long, similar to fettuccine or pappardelle, but with crimped sides; best of all, those ruffled edges are perfect for clinging to sauce!
Ever since I first tried mafaldine, I truly fell in love. It's definitely one of my favorite dried pasta shapes, and it's such a fun pasta to eat. I mean look at it!↓
A Little History of Mafaldine
Mafaldine is often called reginette, meaning "little queens", because the pasta shape was actually named after Princess Mafalda of Savoy. When researching this pasta, I came across an article detailing the tragic history of the princess during World War II; if you're interested, I highly recommend reading it to learn more.
Traditionally, mafaldine is made with durum wheat and water then extruded through a bronze die, so it's available as a dried pasta. It's often paired with delicate sauces and some popular dishes include mafaldine with shrimp or mushrooms. I love serving it with a spicy sauce, like my calabrian chili tomato pasta -- but my new favorite recipe is this mafaldine pasta with spicy caramelized cabbage!
What Makes This Recipe Special
I'm always up for a challenge when it comes to cooking with vegetables. See, I actually love vegetables but I do get sick of cooking them in the same old ways. As a result, I'm constantly thinking about new and creative methods and flavor profiles to work with my veggies.
Enter this fun cabbage-forward pasta dish. Recently, I've been seeing loads of fun ways to dress up this mighty brassica plant beyond the classic slaw or steamed cabbage, from a "cacio e pepe" riff to a tahini-smothered charred variation.
But being a pasta girl, I started brainstorming ideas of incorporating cabbage into a dish. I love the classic combination of buttery cabbage, so I thought why not make a pasta dish out of it?
Here's what makes the dish so special:
- A slew of fragrant aromatics, like anchovies, garlic, chili flakes, capers, and lemon zest infuse the olive oil and butter.
- Cabbage and onion slowly cook down and tenderize, then caramelize after losing all of their moisture. The resulting texture is soft, sweet, and savory.
- Parmigiano-reggiano cheese and lemon juice cut through the sweetness of the cabbage.
- The softened vegetables and aromatics cling to mafaldine because of its ruffled pasta shape yielding a saucy, slurpable texture.
Best of all? You likely already have many of these ingredients at home! Pantry staples really beef up the flavors here.
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Where to Purchase This Shape
Mafaldine is a unique pasta shape, so I can't guarantee you'll find it in a typical supermarket. That being said, there are many online shops where you can purchase it!
- Amazon: You can find lots of different brands selling mafaldine on Amazon. I like 'Anna' brand.
- Alma Gourmet: Alma Gourmet is an Italian purveyor of lots of high-quality products.
- Sfoglini: Sfoglini makes lovely artisan pasta and they have a shape called 'reginetti' that is just like mafaldine in texture but with shorter pieces.
If you still can't find mafaldine, you can substitute it with rigatoni or orecchiette for this recipe.
Let's talk through the ingredient list!
- Butter: Butter is a key component in this dish, as it is a classic pairing with cabbage.
- Garlic: I use lots of garlic here to really amp up the savory flavors.
- Chili Flakes: This is a spicy pasta dish, so I call for ¾ teaspoon. But if you like things milder, feel free to adjust!
- Anchovy Filets: Anchovy filets provide a salty umami flavor without feeling fishy.
- Capers: Salty capers add a little brightness and pop of salt to the dish.
- Lemon: I use lemon two ways here. First, the zest infuses the olive oil and butter in the sauce. Then I top the pasta with lemon juice at the end to cut through any richness.
- Cabbage: Cabbage is really the star in this recipe. I recommend using white or green cabbage here, as opposed to red varieties. This is a great way to use up a lot of cabbage!
- Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese: I add a bit of parm to the sauce right at the end for saltiness and creaminess. I also top the pasta with some cheese when serving.
How to Make Mafaldine Pasta with Caramelized Cabbage
This pasta dish is relatively straightforward to make, but there are a few key steps to ensuring you end up with the yummiest sauce.
Step 1 - Saute the aromatics: First, you'll saute the garlic, chili flakes, anchovy filets, and capers in the butter and oil. Once the mixture smells aromatic, and the butter begins to bubble, you can proceed to the next step.
Step 2 - Cook the cabbage and onion: Next, add the lemon zest, cabbage, and onion. It may appear like there are a TON of vegetables in the pan; this is expected! Use tongs to toss the cabbage and onion and coat them with the buttery aromatics. I usually toss continuously for a minute or so, and as you're tossing, the vegetables will immediately begin to wilt and shrink in size. Saute them on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until they've released most of their liquid and you start seeing some browning on the bottom and sides of the pan.
Step 3 - Saute the vegetables: Continue sauteing for 10 minutes, frequently scraping any brown bites on the sides or bottom of the pot. Adjust the heat as needed to lightly caramelize (but not burn) the vegetables. I ended up keeping the heat on medium low when testing because my vegetables were browning nicely even at a lower heat.
Step 4 - Cook the pasta: While all of that's happening, cook your pasta until it's just barely al dente. Make sure to reserve some pasta water for the sauce later!
Step 5 - Finish the sauce: Transfer the pasta to your pot and toss it with the vegetables. Add a bit of pasta water at a time to loosen the sauce, and continue tossing the pasta. Once the sauce begins to cling to the pasta, remove it from the heat. I usually keep my sauce slightly looser before removing it from the heat as it will continue to thicken off the heat.
Stir in the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and continue tossing (add more pasta water if you need to loosen it up). The sauce should be, well, saucy -- not too dry or too liquidy.
Step 6 - Serve! Season to taste with salt and pepper, and divide amongst serving bowls. Top with parsley, lemon juice (as desired) and more cheese.
Storage and Reheating Instructions
Leftover pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. You can reheat leftover pasta in your dutch oven on the stove over a gentle heat, adding a little water as needed to loosen the sauce.
If you're making this ahead of time, you can absolutely make the sauce a day in advance. Then, just before serving, cook the pasta and toss it in the sauce.
Yes! Mafalda corta would be great here too.
You can, but I wouldn't recommend it. They provide a necessary umami flavor to balance the dish.
Did you try this recipe? I would love to hear your feedback! Be sure to rate the recipe and leave a comment below.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Mafaldine Pasta with Spicy Caramelized Cabbage Recipe
- Metal tongs, for tossing the vegetables and pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
- ¾ teaspoon red chili flakes, use less for a milder version
- 3 whole anchovy filets in oil, drained
- 2 teaspoons capers, drained
- 1 lemon
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced to yield about 2 cups
- ½ medium head of cabbage, core removed; thinly sliced or shredded to yield about 5 to 6 cups cabbage (or 10 to 12 ounces shredded cabbage)
- 8 ounces dried mafaldine pasta
- ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
- ⅓ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, loosely packed
- Add olive oil, butter, garlic, chili flakes, anchovy filets, and capers to a dutch oven. Set over medium heat, and saute until aromatic and the butter is bubbling, about 2 to 3 minutes. Begin breaking up the anchovy filets as a wooden spoon (they will continue to disintegrate).2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 6 garlic cloves, ¾ teaspoon red chili flakes, 3 whole anchovy filets in oil, 2 teaspoons capers
- While the aromatics cook, zest the lemon. Cut two small wedges and set aside for serving.1 lemon
- Add the lemon zest, onion, and cabbage, and continuously toss the vegetables to coat them in the aromatic oil with tongs for about 1 to 2 minutes. This helps wilt the cabbage. Saute for 15 minutes on medium-low heat, or until the vegetables have fully wilted, released most of their liquid, and begun to brown on the sides and bottom of the pot.1 medium onion, ½ medium head of cabbage
- Continue sauteing for another 10 minutes, frequently scraping any brown bites on the sides or bottom of the pot. Adjust the heat as needed to lightly caramelize (but not burn) the vegetables.
- Meanwhile, set a large stock pot of water to boil. Generously salt the water, then add the mafaldine. Cook until al dente, referencing your package instructions. Once al dente, reserve about 1 cup of pasta water and set aside.8 ounces dried mafaldine pasta
- Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the dutch oven, tossing to combine with the cabbage. Add ½ cup of pasta water, then over medium-low heat, continuously toss the cabbage with the pasta. Allow the sauce to reduce until it just begins clinging to the pasta. Turn the heat off, then stir in the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- Divide pasta amongst serving bowls, and top with additional cheese (if desired) and parsley. Squeeze as much lemon juice as desired, and serve hot.⅓ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, loosely packed