Handmade Pici Pasta

For the dough...

300g (2⅓ cups) '00' soft wheat or all-purpose flour

140ml (⅔ cup) warm water

10ml (1 tablespoon) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for shaping

Add the flour to a large mixing bowl. Separately, combine the water and olive oil. Make a wide hole (or "well") in the center of the flour with your fist and add the water/olive oil mixture to the center. With a fork, gradually incorporate small bits of the flour from the rim of the well into the liquid center and whisk into a thick, batter-like consistency. Then fold in the remaining loose flour from the rim of the bowl into the center until a shaggy dough forms. See my full tutorial on the "well method" here and here. Knead vigorously until everything is well-combined, very smooth, and firm, about 10-15 minutes.

Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and let it rest for 30 minuets to an hour at room temperature (the longer rest time will make it easier to roll the pici).

Time to shape...

For a short video of the process, click here.

  1. Cut off about a third of the dough and flatten it with the palm of your hand. Then, with a rolling pin, roll the section into a slab about ¼ inch thick.

  2. Brush the dough with a light coating of olive oil on all sides to prevent the dough from drying out and cracking.

  3. Cut the slab into strips about ¼ inch wide.

  4. Roll each strip into a thin strand about 2-3 mm thick. I like to start in the center, spread my fingers, and stretch the dough outward as I roll. If there's an area that's thicker (the ends, for example), go over it gently with your fingers to even it out. Pici are supposed to be rustic, so don't get caught up on things looking perfect! All the strands will be different lengths, too.

  5. Coil each finished strand into a little spiral and place on a semolina-lined baking tray, wooden board, or dry dish towel. (You can also just line them up so they're close together but don't touch.) Repeat until all the dough is formed.

Note: The pasta will absorb water as it cooks (and get bigger), so try to roll the strands as thin as you can. If the pieces start to dry out, add a bit more olive oil.

Finishing touches...

Pici are traditionally served in a number of ways, including with duck ragu; toasted breadcrumbs (pici alle briciole); and a garlicky tomato sauce (pici all'aglione). It really tastes great with anything!

Fresh pici cook quickly, about 2-3 minutes, in salted boiling water. You can also freeze the coiled strands on the baking tray for about 30 minutes until solid, then transfer them to a freezer bag. Cook straight from frozen. Frozen pici take only a minute or so longer to cook (but always taste test to be sure!).

The recipe pictured below is for pici with parmesan garlic butter, as follows:

Parmesan Garlic Butter (Serves 2-4)

110g (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened

35g (¼ cup) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated

A large handful (¼ cup) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

Salt to taste (I used Maldon)

Mix all of the ingredients together until well-combined. I used about half of this butter mixture for two generous servings of pici—any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days or the freezer for several months.

To make the sauce, heat 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the parmesan garlic butter in a saucepan over medium until it starts to bubble, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add the cooked pici with some residual cooking water. Toss vigorously to coat and emulsify the sauce. Mix in more butter and a dash of pasta water as desired. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve immediately, topped with more cheese and parsley.

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