During my study abroad in Italy, I took a cooking class with a wonderful older lady named Lella. She taught us how to make traditional Tuscan and Sienese dishes, one of which was Pici al’Aglione. When I got back home I made this for the family, and I think they were a bit surprised at how different it is from the Italian pasta dishes that we Americans know and love. To begin, the pasta, which resembles really fat spaghetti, is made of only flour and water – no eggs, so it doesn’t have the expected texture or flavor of regular spaghetti. If you’re feeling brave enough, I’d give this a try; it’s inexpensive and oh so authentically Italian.
The sauce, I think, is what makes this dish really good. “Aglio” is the Italian word for garlic, so it goes without saying that this sauce is loaded with garlic (1-2 cloves per person). The sauce is generally made with a generous portion of peperoncini (red chili peppers, I found whole dried ones but red pepper flakes would probably work too), but you could leave those out if you want to keep your taste buds around for a while longer. Even if you opt out of making homemade noodles, this sauce is oh-so-easy and would taste good with even store-bought pasta.
As is the way with so many recipes, the measurements (especially for the sauce) are not exact. Just adjust the amount of garlic and tomato to your (and your family’s) taste.
Pici (I want to say this will feed ~6):
Generous 5 cups flour (may use up to 50% durum wheat, available at most bulk food stores)
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups tepid water (depending on weather)
Place flour and salt (to taste) on counter or pastry board and create an indentation in the middle. Very gradually, pour water into the middle. Mix slowly, gradually enlarging the center well and adding more water. Dough should be elastic and not too sticky. Add more flour or water as needed to make a relatively smooth dough. Knead for 10-15 minutes, until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands any more (adding a little more flour as needed). Cover the dough and let it rest 10-15 minutes. This may be a good time to start the sauce.
Pinch off a piece of the dough and roll out with your hands until it resembles really fat spaghetti (probably about 1/8″ in diameter). The easiest way to do this, for me, is to create a “dowel” shaped piece 1/4
-1/2″ wide, place it on your counter, and in one motion roll and stretch it out until it’s the right thickness. This is the most time consuming part; when I made it at home we gave up halfway through and started rolling out the dough and slicing it into strips with a knife, then gently rolling them to give them the traditional shape. Place them on a surface that’s been coated with flour or semoline so they don’t get stuck together while you roll out the rest of the dough.
Cook in salted boiling water for 10 minutes, then combine with sauce!
Garlic (1-2 cloves, cut in half, per person)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Canned diced tomatoes (3 cans would work for 6-8 people)
Dried chili peppers or red chili flakes, to taste
Simmer garlic and pepper in hot oil without burning the garlic, 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt, simmer until the garlic cloves can be pierced with a fork (30 minutes or so). Add basil at the last minute and toss with the pasta.