I’ve often imagined rolling each strand of pasta by hand, one by one by one. My fingers might go numb, but I’d get to indulge in the fruits of my labor. In Italy, this artisanal endeavor is not uncommon. In fact, pasta is almost always hand-rolled all along the boot. Rare is the person who would fathom doing it any differently (though, of course, supermarket packaged pasta is always available for lazier cooks). And yet even in a land of handcrafted pasta there are some that rise above the madding handmade horde. One such different breed is pici, the local pasta of the Montalcino and the rest of Toscana.
Pici, or pinci in Montalcino, are thicker, chewier and richer than your basic spaghetti strands—and it’s easy to make! Unlike most pasta, pici doesn’t require eggs. You just need two cups each of semolina and all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt and one cup of water. Mix everything in a large bowl, and then take tiny pieces and roll them between your hands. That’s it! If fresh, the pasta will cook in under 10 minutes and rise to the top of the pot. You can also freeze the pici for several months for later use. Once cooked, you can top pici with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or serve it all’aglione (with garlic). A ragu of wild boar, lamb or a simpler one of basil, garlic or salami can also be added to the pasta.
The taste of fresh pasta makes it hard to go back to store-bought—just as tasting artisanal wines makes it hard to enjoy those that are mass-produced. This chunky pasta is a perfect match for the deep, structured wines of Montalcino. Any Brunello di Montalcino or Super Tuscan with a sturdy structure, full of spice and bright with tannin, complements the heartier sauces and pasta.
I haven’t cooked much lately, but I’m looking forward to spending some time around the stove soon. I see myself sipping a nice red, enjoying the moment— and rolling some pici for dinner.