Tuscan Pici With Lamb Ragu
(serves 4-6 as an appetizer)
For the pici: • 1 lb. finely ground semolina flour, plus extra for dusting • About 1 cup water, cold
For the ragu:
• 2 tbsp. olive oil • 1 red onion, minced • 2 cloves garlic, minced • 3 bay leaves • 1 sprig rosemary • 1 ¼ lb. ground lamb • 4 14-oz. cans good-quality plum tomatoes • Salt and pepper • Extra virgin olive oil, for serving • Parmesan cheese, for grating
To make the pici dough:
- Place the flour in a bowl and, a little at a time, add just enough cold water to make a stiff dough. The drier the dough, the easier it will be to roll out later.
- Dust a clean work surface with flour and knead the pasta dough for 10 minutes or so until it is smooth and velvety. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
To make the pici noodles:
- Pull off an orange-size piece of dough, place it on a very lightly floured work surface, and roll it with your hands into a long, thin sausage shape. When it’s about 1 inch thick, cut it into 1 ¼ inch pieces, so you end up with little nuggets of dough. Make sure the table or board is dry and free of flour, otherwise rolling will be difficult, and have a damp cloth nearby to moisten your hands.
- Take a 6-inch-long wooden skewer, hold it at both ends, and press it down lengthwise into a piece of dough, as if trying to cut it in half down the middle. When you’ve pushed the skewer halfway through, roll the dough gently around the stick, using your fingertips, until the noodle is slightly thinner than a pencil. You should end up with a very thin sausage-shaped piece of pasta with the stick through the middle.
- Stop rolling, and gently pull the skewer out, making sure you pull on the stick rather than the dough. Giving the stick a twist will help. You should end up with a long, thin, hollow noodle. Repeat with the rest of the dough and lay all your pici on a wire rack dusted with semolina flour to dry out slightly before using.
To make the ragu:
- Place a saucepan large enough to hold all the sauce ingredients over medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan along with the onion and garlic and cook slowly for about 10 minutes, until the garlic is soft and lightly colored.
- Add the bay leaves, rosemary, ground lamb, and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, cover, and simmer gently for 2 hours. Check every 10-15 minutes, and if the sauce starts to look dry at any point, add some water.
- Cook the pici noodles in salted boiling water for about 8-10 minutes, until cooked through but still al dente. Drain them and then stir them into the hot ragu sauce. Add a good splash of extra-virgin olive oil, then taste and season again if necessary. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan.
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