A Tuscan Pasta Recipe Anyone Can Make
My Travel Experience Learning Traditional Tuscan Cooking
Several years ago, my husband Mark and I stayed at a villa in the Province of Arezzo which was about 25 miles east of Florence.
Over a period of four days at the villa, we took small group cooking classes with a Tuscan chef. Each day we would meet with our chef, Paola, outside under the pergola for an hour to learn about the Tuscan way of life. Italians take such pride in using good, fresh ingredients that are in season locally such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and cheeses. Food is simple but rich in flavor and hearty. After we discussed Tuscan culture and the recipes for the day, we headed to the cucina (pictured above) where we spent about 3 hours each day preparing and cooking delicious meals.
The photo below shows the doorway to the cucina with an herb and vegetable garden on top of the building and in pots below. And of course, we were able to try our hand at making pizzas in the outdoor wood-fired oven in the second photo below.
Anyone Can Make Pici!
Pici is thick, hand-rolled pasta, like fat spaghetti. It originated in the province of Siena in Tuscany and is made with flour and water typically without any eggs. The Tuscans add some semolina flour to the dough to make the pasta a little rougher, which helps when you roll it out by hand. I like that this pasta can be entirely made by hand without a mixer. Pici is a great pasta to make for beginners and especially for younger members of the family who want to help.
The Recipe for Pici Pasta, by Chef Paola
250 g semolina flour 1 pinch baking soda
450 g flour (00 is best) 4 Tbsp. olive oil
380 ml warm water 1 tsp. salt
Mix the flour, oil, salt and baking soda in a bowl and gradually add a little water at a time while continuing to mix with a wooden spoon or your hands.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and firm but still has softness. Let it rest for 30 minutes and then split it into 4 portions. Roll the fours sections into long, thin sausage shapes.
Cut the sausage shape into cubes of 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch and roll them lightly with your fingers flat on the dough against the floured surface until thin. Start from the middle and continue to roll out.
Place the pici on a kitchen cloth making sure they do not touch. Once finished making all the pici, take a tray with semolina flour and put the pici on the tray and cover lightly with more semolina flour to prevent sticking.
Boil salted water and cook the pici for about 3-4 minutes, or long enough to see it return to the surface, at which point would indicate it is cooked. To be sure, taste for al dente or as you like.
The photo below is of Mark and I having fun while rolling out our pici.
Below is a link to a YouTube video of the Pasta Grannies series, featuring 93 year old Peppa! It is a good example of the techniques used to make pici pasta. Buon Appetito!