Yes, I give in to peer pressure. If you comment and demand more B&E in your life, I will succumb to your whim.
So did I mention that we made pasta? You may have gathered as much based on the olive oil post, assuming you read it. It was fun. And it was part of a truly fantastic meal, mostly made from food grown and/or butchered at our agritourismo’s farm. But this is just about the pasta-making. We were specifically being taught to make pici, which is a thick, hand-rolled spaghetti, popular among the farming folk of the Val d’Orcia.
The first lesson was that everything is approximated and depends on humidity and weather. So any recipe is pretty much useless. You have to be able to tell by the feel. When we try to make our own, that’ll be a fun experiment.
Now, our teacher was making pasta for twenty people, so obviously the proportions here are a bit off, but you start with a pile of regular, old white flour. The gluten in the white flour is important for when you’re stretching it later, so don’t go off and try wheat flour to be all healthy and shit. Fuck that.
Make a flour bowl (if you’re confident) or pour the flour into a bowl (if you’re not). Then add approximately one egg for every person. Eggs are very decadent. The old-school pasta makers still only use water.
Then add some water. A decent amount.
Then add a few glugs of oil and mix that shit together.
When it gets to be about the right texture (how’s that for vague?), you begin to knead it. We kneaded our bit of the giant dough in the waning sunlight, which was awfully grand. Here’s the missus kneading the dough.
Here I am, kneading the dough.
We were exceptionally good at it. We were publicly praised by our host/teacher. There’s a whole technique to it where you keep the dough’s crease right along the top facing you, so that the underside gets all smooth and lovely. DON’T FLIP IT OVER, B&E READERS! DON’T DO IT!
Eventually, when it’s getting nice and rubbery feeling, you test the dough by sticking your goddamned fingers right into it. Which I did. If your fingers come out mostly clean, it’s ready.
Then you cut off thin slices and roll that shit out. You need an uneven wood surface (or a cotton tablecloth or a silicone mat) and no flour on the dough or surface itself so that it can roll (not slide).
As you can see, you pull gently with your left hand, while using the palm of your right hand, not your fingers, to roll the dough. That way, your pici is nice and even!
See how nice and long it gets? Once you finish with your piece of dough, drape it over your fingers sort of like how you might roll up an extension cord (but, you know, more delicately), dip it in flour, and lay it flat onto a tray.
Repeat until you’ve gotten through all the dough. Then boil it like you would any other pasta for about five minutes and pair it with a delicious ragu.
Looks good, doesn’t it? Sprinkle it with pecorino cheese and olive oil, and then eat it!