Do you recall the first time that you ate spaghetti as a child? If you were like me, then the answer would probably be NO. I was so young and sitting in a high chair that I cannot recall that memorable moment but I can tell you that I begged my mother, my grandmother and my aunt to serve it to me plain, with a little butter and in (post high chair) time with some pecorino romano cheese. I did not want spaghetti sauce on my pasta. As I grew up into a young lady of 6 or 7 years, I would be adventurous and ask for sauce “on the side”. I still do at times but there are moments today that can only be captured by a good bowl of Bolognese sauce.
Regardless of the sauce and pasta dressings, I waited to travel to Italy with my husband before I fell in love with pici pasta, traditional pasta from the Tuscany region of Siena. OK. I love all pasta, especially fresh pasta like thin angel hair, spaghetti, linguine and bucatini but there is something so delicious about hand rolled pici pasta that I wonder why it is not served more frequently in restaurants in the states. Pici pasta is similar to Bucatini but the strands are thick long solid pasta shapes made from dough that is primarily water, flour and on occasion, egg. Each pici strand is individually hand rolled and no two strands are the same. Here is a recipe for preparing pici pasta that our friends at La Ferreira in Loro Ciuffena shared with us. Enjoy!
100 grams of flour (96g = ¾ cup so add a little more flour than ¾ cup)
¼ cup water
1 egg (optional)
Sea Salt – ¼ tsp total for both pasta and sauce
Fresh Ground Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup Crushed Garlic
1 cup Marzano or Grape Tomatoes
3 – 4 springs fresh Basil
Shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese
HOW TO MAKE PICI:
Slowly mix some of the water and flour until you can make a well in the center to add the egg. Continue to mix the flour, water and egg mixture. Add a dash of sea salt. At this point you may not need all of the remaining water. Use only enough water to incorporate the flour into the dough mixture.
Knead for 8 – 10 minutes into a ball
Place in a bowl and cover with a damp towel
Let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes
Generously flour your surface to prevent the dough from sticking.
Roll the dough until it is ¼ inch thick.
Cut into long strips.
Take each strand and roll it back and forth with the front of your fingers to create long pici.
Add a little flour on the rolled pici to prevent sticking.
Boil water with a pinch of salt and a cap of olive oil.
Cook Pici for 8 – 10 minutes until cooked ‘al dente’. Do NOT overcook pici pasta.
Rinse well and set aside.
SIMPLE PICI SAUCE:
Heat a frying pan with1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.
Season the oil in the frying pan with salt, pepper, crushed garlic and fresh basil.
Prepare 1 cup Grape or Marzano tomatoes by cutting them in half, length-wise.
Add tomatoes to the frying pan.
(Note: Some use grape sized tomatoes. If you can get them, the Marzano tomatoes are wonderful. They are a little larger and longer than grape tomatoes and really burst with flavor.)
Reduce the heat to med-low setting. Add cooked pici pasta. Add more olive oil – just enough to prevent the pasta from sticking to the pan. Pan fry pici no more than 4 – 5 minutes.
Shave Pecorino Romano Cheese on top and enjoy.