Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pici all'aglione

Pici is a type of pasta very specific to Siena. Pici is the pasta of Siena, and you won't find it many other places. Every restaurant in Siena has their own version of Pici, and this is Lella's. It is a very thick type of spaghetti that is rolled out by hand. This pasta goes back to the Etruscan times, before the Romans, and before Marco Polo brought spaghetti back from the orient. Of course, you can serve this pasta with any type of sauce. Many Siense restaurants serve it with a ragu, porcini, or even a cheese sauce. In Lella's class, we made it with sugo di aglione, which means garlicky sauce. This is a basic tomato sauce that is spicy with garlic and chili flakes.

For the pici:

100 grams of all-purpose flour
100 grams of semolina flour
approximately 130 grams of water
a pinch of salt

Since this is a pasta that is made with only flour and water, you use two types of flour. The AP flour will give it the gluten to stretch out, and the semolina will give it a little more taste and texture. If you don't have semolia, you can double the amount of all-purpose flour. Making pasta can depend on many things. The humidity, the temperature of your hands, even the age of the flour can change how the pasta is. It is better to have a wetter pasta than a drier one, because you can always add more flour, but you can't take any away. So, to start this process, it is best to work on a flat surface that you don't mind getting floury and messy. Dump the flour right onto your work surface, and make a hole in the middle. Start slowly pouring the water into this hole while mixing in the flour with a fork. When the dough becomes too thick to use the fork, you can use a spatula or even you hands to bring everything together. Once you have everything incorporated, start kneading by hand. You should work this dough until you have a nice smooth texture and it does not stick to your hands. You can add more flour as needed. Cover in an airtight space and let it rest for at least half an hour. After it has rested, cut off a small piece at a time, keeping the rest covered. Start working this small piece in your hands and then finish by rolling on a table or other flat work surface. You should roll it back and forth working from the middle outward to form a long thin tube. You can cut this if it gets too long and keep rolling both halves. Roll it until it is a thick spaghetti like noodle. When you are done rolling all of the dough, cook in boiling salted water for at least 7 minutes, maybe more depending on how thick your pasta is. Remove directly from the water and put into the sauce.

Sugo di Aglione:

Extra virgin olive oil
garlic, whole cloves
chili flakes
tomatoes, canned or fresh, depending on the season
a little bit of stock or broth
fresh basil

This is a very easy sauce to make but also very good. Start with a good amount of olive oil and add the whole garlic cloves and chili flakes. This sauce is called sauce of the big garlic, so don't skimp on this ingredient! Only cook until you can start to smell the garlic. You don't want to burn the garlic at all because it will give everything a very bitter flavor. As soon as you can smell the garlic, add the tomatoes and a little bit of broth. Cover the sauce and let it cook for at least 30 minutes. The sauce is done when the garlic is tender with a fork. The final step is to add some chopped basil in the last minute of cooking. Add the pici directly to the sauce and served with a grated pecorino toscano cheese.


  1. Your mom and I just finished making the pasta. It was slow at first, then we kinda got the hang of it. I found if you roll it on the counter and stretch it as you roll it works pretty well. Drinking beer helps, too. ;) It's looking really yummy.

  2. The whole meal turned out super, Becky. Thanks for sharing this recipe! Dad