Pici is a hand-rolled pasta, a bit like rustic spaghetti. It’s about the easiest shape you could make, as you simply roll chunks of the dough into long thin ropes. It hails from Tuscany, and is often served “all’Aglione” which is a garlicky tomato sauce, or in the classic cacio e pepe.
Here, I’ve paired it with peppers, onions and tomatoes which I’ve simply sweated down for a long time until they almost melt together, bringing out all their natural sweetness. It turns into the most deliciously flavoursome sauce for this pasta.
Pici with sweet peppers
- 250g fine semolina
- 125ml tepid water
- 30g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, sliced (not diced)
- 2 bell peppers, red or yellow (please not green, never green!), de-seeded and cut into long thin strips
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 150g cherry or baby plum tomatoes, halved
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Small handful basil leaves, torn
- Salt and black pepper
- Make the pici dough by mixing the semolina and water together to form a dough – it should be pliable but not sticky (add more semolina if it’s sticky). Knead it really well for 10 minutes then cover and leave at room temp to rest for 30 mins whilst you start prepping the sauce.
- Heat the butter and 2tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan, then add the onions and peppers. Saute over a medium heat for a few minutes until starting to soften, then add the tomatoes, garlic and chilli. Season with salt and black pepper, then lower the heat and sweat everything slowly for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it from sticking. After 45 minutes it should be looking very soft, and coming together nicely. Stir in the tomato puree, and continue to cook it all for another 30-40 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. After this the peppers, tomatoes and onions should all look as though they’ve started to melt together, looking very soft and jammy. Remove it from the heat, stir in the additional 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and the torn basil leaves, then check the seasoning and set it aside.
- To shape the pici, flatten the dough ball, then cut strips off it, and roll those strips into long thin ropes. It doesn’t matter if the ropes are different lengths, it only matters that you roll to a consistent thickness, otherwise the strands won’t all cook at the same time. Once they’re rolled, lay them neatly onto a tray or tea towel dusted generously with semolina to prevent them from sticking.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then add the pici – don’t worry if some of the semolina on the tray/towel goes into the water with them, but try not to put it all in or the water will become porridge-y.
- The pici should take about 4-6 minutes depending on how thick you have rolled them – be sure to test a piece regularly from the 3 minute point to ensure you get them out when they’re just al dente.
- Whilst the pasta cooks, put the sauce back on a low heat. Take a small ladleful of the starchy pasta-cooking water and stir it into the sauce to loosen it; this will also help the sauce cling to the pasta.
- Drain the pasta reserving a small cup full of the cooking water in case you need it. Add the pasta to the pan containing the sauce and toss it about, over a medium heat, until the pasta is really well coated, and the whole thing is piping hot. If it looks too dry or stiff, add just a touch more of the reserved cooking water to loosen it.
- Serve immediately, with grated vegetarian parmesan-style cheese to serve.
Substitute the butter for olive oil if making this vegan.