Fresh Tuscan Pici – Homemade Pasta, No Roller Required!

One of the things that attracted me to studying Italian cooking this year is my obsession with fresh homemade pasta. There really is nothing from the grocery store that can substitute for the same taste and texture. The noodles are smooth and slightly chewy and the slightly uneven and variable edges give dishes a rustic vibe and distinct home made quality.

Fresh Tuscan Pici (homemade pasta, no roller required!)

This pasta, Pici, is a great introduction to making homemade pasta. No expertise or special equipment is needed. All you need is flour, water, an egg and an afternoon. The more help you have the better and it would be a great activity with kids so get people in the kitchen to help you and have fun. It won’t look perfect, that is part of its charm! Embrace the imperfection knowing that no extruder or machine cutter can replicate this homemade delicacy.

Most fresh pasta recipes you will see use only egg and flour. Here I used just one egg and water with olive oil. This is traditional to Tuscany and with tomato sauces and this shape I feel it is superior. There are also all different combinations of all purpose and semolina flour. Higher percentages of semolina will yield a chewier dough.  If you don’t have semolina flour you can use entirely all purpose flour. Some recipes use up to 50% semolina but I find this to be far too chewy and have come up with the approximate ratio below.

Fresh Homemade Pici (Hand Rolled Pasta)

  • Servings: 1 lb pasta, 4-6
  • Time: 2hr 30mins

Fresh Tuscan Pici (homemade pasta, no roller required!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP olive oil

Method:

Mix together the all purpose and semolina flour. Form a mound with the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board or directly on the counter top. Using your fist hollow out the center of the mound to form a volcano shape. Ensure the center of the volcano is large enough to handle the liquid without overfilling. Often this is bigger than it appears, move your fist in circular motion to widen the inset. Reshape the sides of the mound then slowly pour the egg, water and olive oil into the center of the mound. Using a fork whisk the egg and water and continue to stir in a circle slowly incorporating the flour into the liquid. (This can be difficult to get right. For your first couple attempts keep a bowl nearby. If the mound becomes compromised dump the contents of the board minus some flour into the bowl and continue whisking adding additional flour.) Eventually you will no longer need the fork as the flour/water mixture becomes more solid. Begin to knead the dough adding additional flour until the pasta dough comes together in a solid ball. You will likely have additional flour left over. Clear the flour off the board and begin kneading the dough. Most people make the mistake of not kneading the dough enough. Set a timer, turn on some music, and move your hips to the kneading motion. The total time will be ~ 20 minutes. Knead until the dough is smooth and then about 10 minutes longer. Place dough in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap for at least an hour.

Brake off pieces of the dough approximately the size of a large cherry. Using your fingers begin to roll and stretch the dough. The actual final diameter is unimportant as long as pieces are consistent. Sometimes it will be easier to divide into two segments and continue rolling. The uneven and different lengths are what put your signature on the pasta- embrace it!

Special Equipment Needed: None

Because cheese and yogurt would be hard to give up but there are few replacements for the delicious richness of cream. I love adding a bit of cream to finish a good soup.

But this soup doesn’t need cream. It’s rich and silky from slow cooking dried beans. And since we didn’t put cream in the soup it is completely appropriate to top the soup with melted cheese. It’s all about balance.

So hopefully you are totally on board with dried beans. They’re tasty and frugal and creamy… so you’re sold right? There is one more thing you will need and if you’ve never purchased a ham hock now is the time. Your first ham bone can be a little intimidating but march on up to your butcher and ask for one. Ham hocks come from the portion of the pigs leg below the traditional Easter or Christmas ham. Very popular is southern cooking, the meat is smoked like bacon and on a bone. Another bonus: One bone is enough to flavor a huge pot of beans and they are very cheap. I’m likely the only 26-year-old north of the Mason-Dixon line advocating for ham hocks but I feel pretty strongly about them. You should try it.

The ham hock I used came from a local farm and was incredibly meaty which was a bonus. However, any hock will work just don’t be surprised if there is less ham in your soup at the end. I also used a rather unusual vegetable from our CSA, celery root (Celeriac). Substitute celery, turnips or any other root vegetable you have hiding in the bottom of your crisper drawer.

The finishing touch, a toast with crispy, slightly burnt cheesy goodness on top is totally optional. And by totally optional I mean you totally have to do it. And then take a bite of creamy, pork-y goodness and use your toast to mop up every last bit in the bottom of your bowl. Did I just ruin this entire post by saying pork-y?

Fresh Tuscan Pici (homemade pasta, no roller required!)

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