Want to learn to pasta from scratch but you don't have a pasta machine? This hand rolled pici pasta is a fabulous pasta that doesn't require a pasta machine or special equipment. Like a thicker version of spaghetti it is the perfect pasta to make for beginners!
Pici pasta has peasant origins has roots as far back as the Estruscan age. It hails from Siena in Tuscany and is a fat, irregular version of spaghetti with a distinctive al dente texture. Some say the name Pici (also called Pinci in Montalcino) comes from the word "appiciare" which means to pull or stretch. It is a versatile pasta being able to handle a rich ragu or simple sauce. Sienese pastaii (pasta makers) hand roll this pasta. It really exemplifies the beauty of Italian simplicity. If you love al dente pasta then you will love pici. I first made this at the Sagra virtual cooking class.
The reason why it is so ideal to make for a beginner is that it is irregular in its thickness along the lengths. Think spaghetti but thicker and more rustic. Spaghetti is an extruded pasta so the dough is pushed through molds giving it its uniform shape.
There are several different ways to hand make Pici pasta:
1- You can roll it out with a rolling pin and then cut it into strips.
2- You can roll it between your palms where the pasta dangles vertically to create long, thin noodles
3- You can roll it horizontally on a surface to create long, thin noodles
Pici is usually served as Pici all’aglione in a simple sauce with fresh tomato, olive oil and plenty of garlic. Other ways to serve it is with bread crumbs toasted in olive oil and "cacio e pepe" or cheese and pepper sauce.
Semolina Flour Vs Regular Flour Start with semolina flour if you can get it or if you can't any flour will do. Semolina is coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat, a harder type of wheat that is high in gluten (13%). Durum wheat, specifically Amber Durum is the second most grown type of wheat after Common Wheat (what you get plain or all purpose flour from). Durum means "hard" and it is the hardest of all wheat varieties.
Semolina flour is a light golden colour as opposed to softer white wheat flour. It is used for pasta, pizza, biscuits and gnocchi. The reason why it is used in pasta is because the resultant pasta has a lovely al dente, firm and chewy texture to it. If you can't get this use plain all purpose flour (8-11% gluten) although the result will be slightly different and softer but really no less delicious.
What is 00 flour? 00 refers to the milling process and how fine the grain is. 00 or Doppio Zero (double zero) is very finely milled flour and is ideal for pasta making. The grades range from 00 (finest), 0, 1 and 2 (coarsest).
How do I know if I have kneaded the dough enough? Kneading this dough will take around 4-5 minutes (it will take longer if you increase the size that you're making). Your dough is kneaded enough once it is smooth and regular in texture and resembles modelling clay.
Why resting the pasta dough is important: Adding water to flour and then kneading it activates the gluten proteins in the flour making it tougher to work with. Resting it will allow the dough to become more pliable and easier to roll. I usually rest it at room temperature. You can rest the dough for longer, even overnight if you want to. If you do this, refrigerate the dough and then take it to room temperature 1-2 hours before you roll it.
How To Roll Pici Pasta: Your first batch of pici is probably going to be a bit thick but subsequent batches will be perfect. If you pinch off 4grams/0.14oz of dough you should be able to roll it out to around 30cms/12 inches in length. Make sure that your rolling surface is NOT dusted in flour as the dough needs to grip a surface to be able to roll properly.
This is really a fun pasta to make with the family or friends and dare I say kids might really like this too. Speaking of friends, we recently ventured out to our first post isolation party. Now that they've relaxed social distancing laws in NSW, two people can visit a house so we ventured out to Ivy and Ryan's house. Even with the new rules, we still did it with a measure of trepidation and are only really were going to see people who were vigilant about staying healthy and isolating.
It was a make your own pizza night. I brought over four balls of home made pizza dough and we all rolled out and topped our own pizzas. Everyone's was different and we topped them with our favourite toppings with an array of different cheeses, meats and vegetables.
It was wonderful to be able to see our friends in real life, not that we could make physical contact but seeing everyone's pizza coming together, cooking it and listening to Pearl Jam loudly and ranking our favourite 90's grunge bands in order (for me: 1. Pearl Jam 2. Nirvana 3. Foo Fighters) was suddenly more fun than we could have ever imagined.
Even Ryan and I who bicker like siblings forced to share a bathroom didn't argue that night. I think it's because I've found a new word for him. Have you heard of the word Ultracrepidarian? It's the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge. I also think it applies to a lot of people I argue with (and maybe me at times!).
So tell me Dear Reader, how are you going with real life meetings? Are you staying virtual or are you seeing people? Have you heard of the word Ultracrepidarian? And what order do you rank your 90's bands?
Pici Pasta With Prawns
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 45 minutes plus 1 hour resting time
Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 200g/7ozs semolina 00 flour (or plain flour if you can't get semolina)
- 70-75ml/2.5-2.6flozs. water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 400g/14ozs. tomato pasta sauce
- 150g/5ozs. prawns, shelled and roughly chopped
- 60g/2ozs. mushrooms, sliced
- Parmesan cheese to serve
Step 1 - Mix the flour with the water until you get a cohesive dough - you may need a bit more water or a bit more flour, each batch of flour is different so you may have to adjust. Kneading should take 4-5 minutes of kneading until you get a cohesive dough that is smooth and regular in pattern-think modelling clay or modelling chocolate. Wrap in cling film and set aside to rest for 1 hour.
Pinching off 4grams or 0.14ozs of dough
Step 2 - Lightly flour two trays but do not flour your rolling surface. In fact wipe it with a damp cloth to get rid of any flour. Pinch off small amounts-mine were 4g and then roll it out using the flats of your palms. At first I rolled it into a small log between my two hands and then placed it on the benchtop and rolled it out to 30cms. Don't worry if it breaks, the irregularity and imperfections are part of the beauty of hand rolled pasta. Place on the floured tray.
Step 3 - Make the sauce so that it is ready for the pici. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat and fry the garlic briefly. Add sauce to a pan and add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add the prawns and cook for a couple of minutes.
Step 4 - Heat a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pici a handful at a time. It takes around 3 minutes to cook it and you can't overcook it so you can leave it for a bit longer if you forget.
Step 5 - Remove pici from the water with tongs and place in the sauce adding a little pasta cooking water if needed. Place on serving plates. Serve with extra parmesan.