Sunday, 12 June 2011

Honeymoon Special - Pici all' Aglione - pasta with no need for a pasta machine

Hello once again from Greedy Gusto, and welcome to the second in the series of Honeymoon special recipes, taken from our cooking course in Tuscany. Today's recipe is hand made Pici pasta. Now I'm a pasta lover, and I've tried every shape of pasta I've seen on the shelves of Waitrose (or rather the virtual shelves of Ocado). But I've never heard of "pici".

First it would probably be helpful to state that pici is pronounced "peachy" (so you get it right for the rest of this blog). Mimo, our chef, told us, it's very popular in Tuscany. His exact words were "in Toscana, pici, pici, pici, tagliatelle, pici, pici":

And the best thing about pici is that you don't need a pasta machine to make it. You can just roll it out with your hands, and it's supposed to come out all different shapes and sizes because it's a rustic dish. Perfect!

To start off with, just mix all the ingredients together on a big clean surface. The trick is to really push down hard with the wrist to knead the dough into a pliable mixture:

Mimo had a handy cutting device to cut the lump of mixture into thin slices, roughly the size of a thin cigar (is that called a cigarillo?). If you don't have a fancy cutting device (and I guess you don't), you could just use a knife:

Take one of the cigarillos, and roll out a long piece of pasta. The trick here is to start rolling the cigarillo with your hands next to each other, rolling the pasta with the top half of your fingers, with the fingers spread apart. Then gradually work your hands outwards until you have a piece of pasta about 60cm long:

This takes a while, and in our lesson we made a lot of pasta:

We also made up a garlic tomato sauce (aglione) to go with the pasta. And, after all that hard work, we had a healthy appetite for the delicious result that evening:

Serves 4

- 500g strong flour (i.e. for bread)
- 75g Tipo 00 flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- Warm water as necessary
- Semolina flour for dusting the pasta

Mix the strong flour, the Tipo 00 flour and  the salt, then pour the mixture out on a large surface. Make a well in the middle and crack the egg into the middle of the flour. Add a bit of water, and start to mix it together with your hands. Gradually add more water and mix until the dough is firm and pliant. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough is silky, then leave under an upturned bowl for a few minutes.

Next roll out the dough until it is 2cm thick, and cut into cigarillos. Roll out the cigarillos until they're less than half a centimetre thick.When you've rolled each cigarillo, pull it in half, then put it into a bowl of semolina flour. Repeat until all the pasta is used up, each time mixing up the rolled out pasta in the semolina flour. The pici is then ready!

Simply cook the pici in a pan of boiling salted water, drain and serve.

Garlic tomato sauce
Serves 4

- 5 garlic cloves
- Olive oil
- A squeeze of tomato puree
- A pinch of dried chilli flakes (peperoncino)
- 2 cans of tomatoes

Peel the garlic cloves, and squash them with the heel of your hand (you'll really need to wash your hands after this to get rid of the smell of garlic). Put a pan on the heat with a full glass of olive oil in it (i.e. a lot of oil). When the oil is hot put the garlic in and cook until it is brown. Then add a squeeze of tomato puree, a pinch of chilli flakes, the canned tomatoes, some salt, and half a can of water.

Stir all this together, then simply leave simmering away for up to half an hour. Serve with the pici pasta and some parmesan.

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