I learned how to make this super simple, rustic & traditional Italian pasta at one of the 18 Reasons Noodle Labs (see my post on the class here) that I attended in the Mission here in San Francisco. If you’ve never attended an 18 Reasons class, I strongly recommend doing so…super fun, laid back and informative!
What I love about this particular pasta, though, is that it forces you to slow down, use your hands, and enjoy some quality time (and wine!) with friends while making it…don’t try to make this pasta alone! It wouldn’t be nearly as fun and you’d end up stuck at a table rolling out the pasta for an hour to get enough for two by yourself. But don’t let that scare you off, I promise it’s super easy, just a bit manual, but the resulting pasta (and traditional breadcrumb topping that goes along with it) is so worth it. I know it’s going to feel a bit odd for some to not have a sauce and instead just have the pasta with the breadcrumb topping…but trust me on this one, the Italians know what they’re doing!
This recipe is directly from my 18 Reasons Noodle Lab recipe booklet:
1 cup semolina flour (6 oz)
1 cup all-purpose flour (5 oz)
¾ cup water (6 oz)
extra semolina flour for dusting & keeping noodles separate before cooking
1 cup rough bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
Minced leaves from a few sprigs oregano
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
optional: 2 oz cubed pancetta
To make the pici:
Mix & knead both flours and water. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Cut the dough into four pieces and work with one at a time (keeping the rest wrapped in plastic wrap or a towel).
Flatten the dough into a sheet 5″ wide and ¼” thick and sprinkle with semolina flour. Using a bench scraper, cut into thin logs. Keep the logs from sticking together (using more flour) or drying out (cover with wrap/towel). Dust a tray or baking sheet with semolina flour.
Now it’s time to bring in the friends! Each “picaiolo” takes a log and rolls it beneath their fingers on the table, moving from the middle to the ends, stretching gently outwards. The goal is a long, thin snake…dig deep and resurrect your play-doh skills!
*Tips: If the dough is dry & sliding instead of rolling, mist the surface with a bit of water. If the dough is sticky, lightly flour the surface. If the snake gets too long, pinch it in half and keep rolling.
Set the finished pici on the floured tray. When you have a bunch, roll them in semolina to coat and push them together to make room for more, keeping them lined up in one layer to prevent sticking.
After you make the breadcrumb topping (below), add the pici to a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook fully (~3-5 minutes), drain well and empty into the pan you used to make the breadcrumbs, off-heat. Toss pici with a little olive oil and most of the bread crumbs and adjust seasoning. Remove to a bowl and top with remaining breadcrumbs. Mangia!
To make the breadcrumb topping:
Cook pancetta (if using) in a little olive oil at medium-low until it renders & turns crisp, about 15 minutes.
Heat olive oil (or add a little more to the pancetta if you used). Cook garlic & oregano for a minute, then add red pepper flakes and bread crumbs. Toss occassionally until crisp & golden, about 10 minutes, adding more oil if the pan gets dry. Don’t let the garlic burn (or it will taste bitter)! Remove crumbs from pan and set aside.