If you could take a leisurely trip into the enchanted land of the Sienesi hills you would pass thru some incredible wine country from San Gimignano thru Poggibonsi and all the way to Monterpulciano, Pienza and Chiusa. Not only would you be able to taste some incredible wines but the views alone would be breathtaking. I know because I’ve travelled those roads.
The little hamlet where I always end up is Montefollonico because that’s where my Nonni (grandparents) were born. That’s where my dad was born and that’s where I still have family that I communicate with as often as possible via email and see on every visit to Italy.
The house my Father was born in is centuries old.
The house which has been passed down to Andrea and his family (probably a 3rd cousin) is still lived in is newer and has been beautifully renovated and modernized over the years.
It is in this house that I enjoyed and learned to make Pici. Cristina’s mother, Nonna Rina goes faithfully every Sunday and they make Pici.
I was fortunate to get a first-hand cooking lesson one year when we were visiting. Pici is a dish par excellence of the Sienese Hills lovingly created by Sienese Pastaii (pasta makers). It is a thick pasta typical of the entire province of Siena. Today, I will tell you what I know and love about Pici. At another time I will tell you about one of my favorite wineries in Montepulciano, MonteMercurio and the wonderful gift they gave me. It was a gift of information which unlocked a mystery for me.
Pici is a simple dish in its ingredients; 600g of soft wheat flour, a pinch of salt and water. Knead the flour with the water and salt until the dough is smooth. Wrap in a cloth to let rest for a while. Then roll it out to about a medium thickness and then cut into long strips. The strands should be thick. Take each strip and pull lightly as you twist it slightly to give a few curves. Let rest on a cloth until all the strips are cut. Cook in salted boiling water only until al dente. Drain, transfer to a heated bowl and toss with your favorite sauce.
(The technique that Nonna Rina taught me is to roll the dough out into a rectangle about 11/4-inches wide and 6-inches long. (Of course, that dimension depends on the amount of flour, etc. in your recipe.) On a well-floured pastry board cut a strip ½-inch wide, hold one end firmly in your left hand and with the flat of your right hand roll the end back and forth, stretching it as you go to obtain a “spaghetti” which is long, thin and even as possible. You can give the strand a little twist after stretching. Dredge the rolled out pici in some flour and leave to dry on a floured pastry board in a cool place.)
There are many sauces that pair well with pici but one that we like is a simple one. Which we call “Pici con le Bricole”
3-4 slices of Tuscan (crusty) bread. 2 – 3 tb extra virgin olive oil, 3 anchovy fillets, freshly grated cheese – your favorite – salt and freshly ground black pepper, also to taste.
Toast the bread slices and crumble them into crumbs. Heat the oil in a frying pan, put in the anchovies and the breadcrumbs and cook and stir until the breadcrumbs are toasted. Pour over the cooked pici, and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese.
Enjoy with a nice glass of Chianti Classico to enjoy a true Tuscan experience.