Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Piecing Italian Memories together -- with Pici

Last June, most of my family (minus a sister) ventured to Italy for a three week vacation. Most of the time, we were in Tuscany, specifically in the Val D'Orcia, near La Foce, a beautiful garden/estate.

The Italians know how to live life: good wine, a beautiful landscape, wonderful accomodations (and delightful sleep!), and amazing food.

One of the dishes we all loved -- and were determined to replicate once we got home to the US -- was pici.

So, last Wednesday, the second evening my grandfather was home, the temperatures had dropped to a high of 50 degrees F, and grilling burgers outside on the grill was no longer appealing to us. We had invited my cousins, who lived in the next town over, to dinner, too. Burgers for 10 on the grill in the cold? Yeah, not happening. So, my mom and I re-thought the menu. What about using our grass-fed ground beef to make a bolognese sauce, complete with raw milk from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm? Brilliant, if you ask me. If you haven't tried this milk yet, you must. I'm a convert and used to only drink skim milk, which is really not good for you. This changed my life, and my dry skin! Inspired by our trip to Italy, we decided to make homemade pasta, too. Except our rollers were in storage. Pici, however, would be perfect as we rolled it by hand. Yes, time consuming. But, grab some friends, pour yourselves a cocktail, and have fun.

We followed a recipe by a dear woman named Dania who we met at her restaurant La Chiusa in Montefallonico. If you're ever in Tuscany, the food there is outstanding!

Dania's Pasta Dough:
1 cup flour
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
Large pinch of salt

Combine the salt and flour in a bowl and mix well. Add the egg and oil and mix until well combined. Turn the dough out on a smooth floured surface and knead until shiny. I let it rest for 30 minutes under a damp towel before breaking off small pieces and rolling it on a wooden surface to make pici (like fat hand-rolled spaghetti), about 1/8" or so thick (it was very elastic, so it's okay if it's thicker...it will just need to cook longer).

We let the pici dry out a bit before cooking it in an abundant amount of salty (like the ocean!) water. We served it with sauteed zucchini "spaghetti", a puree of butternut squash, the bolognese, fresh ricotta and parmigiano cheeses, and a loaf of Wave Hill Bread. And, for dessert? My mom's specialty: Passion Fruit Panna Cottas.*

* Many of these recipes I have yet to try, including Bolognese and Panna Cotta, on my own. As soon as I do, I will share the tale and images with you!

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