Handmade Pici Pasta
If you’re looking for the perfect beginner-friendly pasta, look no further. These hand-rolled spaghetti from Tuscany are rustic, delightfully chewy, and made with just flour, water, and a little elbow grease. You’ll often find pici paired with fried breadcrumbs, a duck ragù, or all’aglione—a simple tomato sauce infused with a local, more mild garlic—but they taste great with pretty much anything, including the simple parmesan garlic butter below.
Makes about 22 ounces, serving 4
400 grams (about 3¼ cups) 00 pasta flour or all-purpose flour
200 ml (¾ cup plus 4 teaspoons) warm water
15 ml (1 tablespoon) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for shaping
Make the dough
Add the flour to a large mixing bowl and make a wide hole (or "well") in the center. Pour the water and olive oil into the well.
With a fork, whisk a small portion of the flour, a little at a time, from the well’s inner rim into the liquid center, until you have a thick, batter-like consistency (you'll probably use about a quarter of the flour here; most of it will remain loose).
Fold in the remaining loose flour from the sides of the bowl into the center until a shaggy dough forms (see my Pasta Dough 101 post with more detail here.)
Knead vigorously until the dough is smooth and firm, about 10 minutes.
Cover it tightly and completely, either in plastic wrap, with a damp dish cloth, or with an overturned bowl. Let it rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
Shape the pici
For a short video of the process, click here.
Cut off a quarter of the dough (rewrap the remainder immediately) and flatten it with the palm of your hand. Then, with a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll the section into a slab that’s roughly ¼ inch (½ cm) thick.
Brush the dough all over—front, back, edges—with a light coating of olive oil. This will prevent the dough from drying out and cracking.
Cut the dough into strips about ¼ inch (½ cm) wide.
Roll each strip into a thin strand about 2 to 3 mm thick. Start in the center and use your fingers or palms to stretch the dough outward as you roll. Use your fingers to even out any thicker areas (the ends, for example), and add a bit more olive oil if the strands start to crack and dry out. Know that pici are supposed to be rustic, so no need for perfection here! But the pasta will absorb water as it cooks and swell in size, so try to roll the strands as thin as you can.
Coil each finished strand into a little spiral and place on a baking sheet dusted in semolina flour or lined with parchment paper, a wooden board, or a dry dish towel. (You can also line them up so they're close together but don't touch.) Repeat until all the dough is formed.
Cook the pici
Fresh pici cook quickly, about 4 minutes, depending on their thickness. Boil them in well-salted water until tender or to your liking (always taste to be sure!), then toss them directly with your sauce of choice. Always reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
To store the pici for future use, freeze the coiled strands on the sheet pan for about 20 minutes or until solid, then transfer them to a freezer bag. Cook in well-salted boiling water straight from frozen. Frozen pici take only a minute or so longer to cook than fresh.
The recipe below is for pici with parmesan garlic butter, or you can try my recipe for pici with roasted garlic and tomatoes over on Food & Wine.
Above: Pici with Roasted Garlic & Tomatoes, photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Neville Crawford.
Parmesan Garlic Butter (Serves 4)
½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
4 garlic cloves, grated
1½ ounces (42 grams) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ loosely packed cup (10 grams) flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse together until the parsley is finely chopped and the mixture is well-combined. (Alternatively, finely chop the parsley by hand and mix everything together in a medium bowl.) Adjust seasoning to taste.
To serve, add half of the butter to a large mixing bowl. Then add the hot pasta directly to the bowl and toss to combine. Add more butter and loosen it with pasta cooking water until the mixture is creamy and the pasta is well-coated.
Divide the pasta among bowls and serve immediately, finished with more grated cheese and chopped parsley if you’d like.
Note: Any leftover butter can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.