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A-Z of Making Pasta Shapes: Fileja

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

Fileja, pronounced filea are a shape of pasta found mainly in Calabria, around Vibo Valentia and Tropea.

But really this pasta can be called with a million names!

Fusilli, Maccheroni Calabresi, Maccheroni al ferretto

They are made with durum-wheat flour, salt and water. The dough is kneaded for 10 minutes and then it is left to rest for 30 minutes. That’s when the magic happen, as the dough rests all thos untangled gluten nets relax so that the dough becomes smoother and softer. After the resting time the dough is rolled into pencil-thick ropes, which are cut into pieces about 5 cm. One at a time, a length of dough is loosely wrapped around a metal ferretto or a wooden skewer and rolle until it becomes a tube shape long about 10-12 cm. The pasta is then slid off the ferretto and let dry on a clean teatowel.

Traditionally fileja is served with a meat ragu’ or spicy ‘nduja, since we are in summer my fileja is about to be served and enjoyed with a scrumptious sauce of Braised Cuttlefish with crunchy and spicy pangrattato (breadcrumbs).

The contrast between the tender squid and crisp pangrattato is what elevates and distinguish the dish.

A south Australian Riesling or a mineral and fresh Italian Arneis is recommended!


Serves 4

Pasta Dough:

  • 300g fine semolina (1 and ½ cup)

  • A pinch of salt

  • 150ml (2/3 cup) warm water

Braised Cuttlefish:

  • 1 kg fresh cuttlefish

  • 1 white onion, peeled and halved

  • ½ bunch fresh oregano

  • 20 black peppercorns

  • 800ml water

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • Salt and black pepper

  • Lemon juice, to serve

  • Extra virgin olive oil, to serve


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • Chili flakes, to taste

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 4 tablespoons organic breadcrumbs

  • Salt

Tools needed:

- wooden board

- a clean tea towel or a bowl

- a small oven tray

- a small pot for the fish stock

- a small frying pan to fry the pangrattato

- a knife

- a wooden skewer

- a small frying pan

- a medium size pot to boil pasta in

- a large pan or wok to cook the cuttlefish

How to make the dough:

Place the flour on a wooden surface. Make a well and add a pinch of salt. Gently mix to combine.

Slowly incorporate 150 ml warm water into the flour, using a fork to mix.

knead until smooth and resilient for about 10 minutes.

Cover the dough with a tea towel or a bowl and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before using.

How to make Braised Cuttlefish and Pangrattato Sauce:

As your dough is resting, let’s cook the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Remove the heads from the cuttlefish and rinse. Roast in a small oven tray – with the onion- in the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Clean the bodies of the cuttlefish: remove and discard the internal organs, the ink sacs and the beaks.

Bring a small pot of water to boil and add the roasted heads, onion, fresh oregano and peppercorns. Simmer for 30 minutes, remove from the heat and strain into a clean container to make a stock.

In the meantime, cut the cuttlefish bodies into 5 mm stripes and set aside till needed.

How to make Pangrattato:

To make the pangrattato, heat a small frying pan on a medium heat, put the olive oil, chili flakes and garlic and suate for one minute. Add the organic pangrattato and salt and stir well. Cook for 3-4 minutes, till golden brown, stirring regularly. Place into a clean bowl, to avoid over cooking and set aside.

How to roll the dough and shape Fileja:

Cut off half of the dough and roll the section into a disc about 1 centimeter thick using your hands.

Cut the disc into strips about 1 centimeter wide and roll them into cylinders as thick as a pencil. Finally, cut the cylinders into approximately 5 cm pieces.

Loosely wrap the 5 cm pieces of dough around the skewer or ferretto, roll it back and forth with your hands to form a 10 cm tube shape that is not completely closed. Place the tubes on a wooden board or clean teatowel and keep rolling till you have used all the dough.

In order to save time, I recommend to make the fileja a day in advance and let it dry on a clean teatowel overnight.

How to cook handmade fileja:

Fresh, handmade pasta will cook much faster than store bought dry pastas.

Fill a medium size pot of water and add a generous tablespoon of salt to ensure the fileja is properly seasoned. Bring to the boil on a high heat.

In the meantime, heat 1 cup of cuttlefish stock in a pan. Simmer and reduce for a few minutes, then add the butter and cuttlefish and cook for 30 seconds.

Excess cuttlefish stock can be stored in the fridge or freezer for future use.

Season with salt and black pepper and remove from heat.

Homemade fileja pasta will need to boil for about 6 minutes to reach the perfect al dente doneness. But keep in mind that the exact cooking time will depend on how tick and dry your pasta is, so I recommend tasting one piece of pasta to ensure it is cooked to your liking.

Once cooked, drain pasta and reserve a cup of the cooking water.

Add pasta to the pan with the cuttlefish, and give it a good shake over a strong flame to emulsify the sauce and coat pasta thoroughly. If the pasta looks a bit dry or thick, add some of the reserved pasta water and stir well.

Add lemon juice, to taste and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Plate and add a generous sprinkle of pangrattato.


How to pair pasta with the right sauce!

The Braised Cuttlefish and Pangrattato sauce is also great combined with cavatelli, gnocchi or orecchiette.

And if you don’t have time making fresh pasta try with store bought Gnocchi or orecchiette.



The A-Z of Making Pasta Shapes series is well underway on my social platforms, and I'm already having so much fun teaching you how to make pasta shapes. Have you managed to join in? I hope so, but if not, here's a recap.

Every week I share how to make particular pasta shapes corresponding with letters of the alphabet. Every letter will represent one or more pasta shapes. So far, I've covered A for Agnolotti, B for Blecsand for Busiate, C forCannelloni, Cappelletti, Cavatelli, Culurgiones, D for a perfect Dough, E for Egg Yolk Ravioli, F for Farfalle and I'm continuing the letter F this week by showing you how to make Fileja.

Tune in to @_pastajourney_ social posts and stories to discover the best pasta recipes and how to perfect the shapes.

The A-Z of Making Pasta Shapes series wants to celebrate all handmade pasta shapes according to the tradition, so if you want to know more about a pasta shape, just put the name in the comments.


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