The rustic, chunkier nature of homemade breadcrumbs has a much better texture for this dish than ready-made breadcrumbs and is a must. The best way to make pici is literally with your hands, from start to finish. Grab an apron and get ready to get a little messy. —Emiko
For the pici
1 1/2 cups
(200 grams) plain flour
1 1/2 cups
(200 grams) semolina flour
(200 milliliters) warm water
extra-virgin olive oil
For the dressing
(60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
cloves of garlic, chopped
salted anchovy fillets
Salt, pepper and dried chili to taste
Grated Pecorino cheese, optional
Fresh parsley, chopped, optional
In This Recipe
To make the pici, mix the two flours together on a clean surface, forming a pyramid. Create a well in the centre of the pyramid and pour in the warm water and oil bit by bit while incorporating the flour by carefully swirling the liquid with your hands. Continue combining the flour and water this way slowly until you get a smooth dough. If you find your dough comes together before you finish incorporating all the flour, stop there; if it is too sticky, dust on some extra flour. You want a ball of dough that springs back when you poke it and no longer sticks to your hands when you roll it. Set the dough aside to rest, covered (in a Tuscan kitchen they simply pop an upturned bowl over it), for at least 30 minutes.
Separate the dough into two pieces to begin with and on a well-floured surface roll out the first piece until it is about 2 to 3 millimeters (1/10 inch) thick. Cut long strips and then with the palms of your hands or between your thumb and fingers, roll each flat strip from the center outwards, until you have thick noodle, thicker than a spaghetti noodle. Dust with semolina and set aside. Continue until you have finished the dough.
Heat a pot of water to boil the pasta. If you time all this perfectly, you can prepare the sauce in the very short time that it takes for the pasta to cook. Otherwise, prepare the sauce first -- fresh pasta should never have to wait!
For the dressing: In a wide skillet, gently saute the chopped garlic in half of the olive oil until it has softened and is about to turn golden. Add the anchovies and chilli and stir until the anchovies melt. Take care not to burn the garlic. Set aside until the pasta has boiled. Prepare your other ingredients.
Cook the pasta in the boiling, salted water until al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of your pici (taste it: it should be slightly resistant, even chewy, but not taste like flour). Drain, saving some of the cooking water.
Add the drained pici with a ladleful of the cooking water to the anchovy and garlic mixture in the skillet and over a medium heat toss the pasta for one minute or so, adding the rest of the olive oil and the breadcrumbs, until combined. Serve immediately with some grated pecorino and freshly chopped parsley, if you like.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.