Sunday, January 22, 2012

Recipe: Pici – Hand Rolled Pasta from Tuscany

A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority. – Samuel Johnson 

Pici with beef, onion, mucshroom and carrot ragù.
Amaze your friends and stun your enemies with hand rolled pasta. Traditionally from Tuscany, this is a wonderful way to make an unusual pasta even if you don’t have a pasta roller.

Just add enough water to bring
the dough together.
I know that fettucini and linguini can be made with a rolling pin and cutting, but this is different. Each piece is lovingly rolled by hand into a tube that is thinner than a regular pencil. Each piece has varying thickness along its length. That’s part of its charm. Very rustic.

I said “lovingly” in the paragraph above because these noodles take time to make. You roll small pieces of dough (with your palms) two to three times. But what a result. These are a substantial noodle, and as such demand a substantial sauce with lots of flavour.

Think ragù with beef and vegetables, or with duck or boar. That’s what these thick noodles demand. Something with guts.

Now “guts” doesn’t mean it has to be chunky, just with loads of flavour. Maybe make a porcini mushroom or a garlicky spicy sauce. I would shy away from “delicate” sauces like vodka sauce or lobster. Although delicious they would be overwhelmed.

This recipe would be great fun if you were having friends over for a cooking party. That way you could share the workload. The first time I rolled the noodles it took me 1/2 hour. Second roll was quicker.

Traditionally this dough has no eggs, but I find that they add an elasticity (therefore easier to roll) that wouldn’t be there without their inclusion.

After 10 minutes. I could have kneaded it a bit longer...
Even though these noodles take time, they are certainly worth the effort to serve something with the look and taste of the Italian countryside.

Hand Rolled Pasta (pici)
Serves 4
2 cups flour
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (just enough to bring the dough together into a mass)

Mix the salt and flour together. Then add the ingredients and bring together with a fork. Knead the resulting dough for 10 minutes or until quite smooth. Wrap the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes. 

Roll walnut sized pieces into long tubes. Keep the remaining dough wrapped.
After the dough has rested take a walnut-sized piece of dough and roll with your hands on the counter or a large cutting board into a long tube. The piece should stretch to at least 14 inches long. Each time the dough rests is tends to shrink and get fatter that what you had rolled.

This is the first rolling. Note the varying thicknesses. Second roll with help that out.
Let rest for another 30 minutes. Roll each piece again. It should be able to stretch to 20 inches. If the dough is too long to handle, cut it in half. You will note by now you’re getting an understanding of how the dough reacts.

This is after the second roll. Each time it's easier to make each piece longer and more even.
Let the dough rest again. Just before cooking roll each piece again if desired. You’re looking for noodles that are about half as thick as a pencil.

Boil in salted water for 10 minutes. It takes that long for the noodles to thoroughly cook. 

Serve with any chunky country-style sauce or ragout. I understand they are also served tossed with breadcrumbs just by themselves with no sauce.


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