Kamis, 04 November 2010

Pici con ragu

When I asked my son what he wanted for dinner tonight, he picked "Pici con Ragu" from Jamie's Italy cookbook. I agreed, but honestly, I had no idea what I had  gotten myself into.
I had made pasta before, so I figured it wouldn't be too difficult.  Boy, was I wrong....

At least it was an easy start: the sauce rather classic, cooked by itself almost the whole afternoon and came out deliciously. The dough was prepared in a couple of minutes. I stored it in the fridge as recommended and decided to have an afternoon rest. My inner voice told me, though, that I should give myself enough time to practice rolling out of the Pici. So I started relatively early in the afternoon to roll out my first Pici, and I was so right!
The dough was easy to handle, but the skewer stuck to the dough and I couldn't get it out when I rolled them as thin as I wanted them to be . So I floured the stick, but then the dough didn't wrap around the pasta anymore...
Long story short, I rolled out the little pieces, divided them in half, rolled them almost to the length of the stick and then pressed the skewer into them to flatten them out a little.
It worked o.k. I know now why pasta comes in packages.
Still, the dish was scrumptious - empty plates across the table... Would I do it again? Only when I have plenty of time, really a lot....

Pici con Ragu
(Jamie's Italy)
serves 4

For the pici

455 g/1lb finely ground semolina flour
approx. 200ml /7floz water

for the ragu sauce

olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 bay leaves
a sprig of fresh rosemary
500 g/1lb 2oz minced beef or veal
4 x 400 g tins of good quality plum tomaoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a bloc of Parmesan cheese for grating

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 when rolling it out later. Dust a clean work surface with flour and knead the pasta dough for 10 minutes or so until smooth and velvety. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.

Pull of a orange sized piece of dough and roll it with your hands into a long thin sausage shape on a very lightly four-dusted work surface. When it's about 2cm/ 1 inch thick, divide it into 3cm / 11/4 inch pieces so you end up with lots of 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 1mm thick 15cm/6 inch long wooden skewer, hold it at both ends and press it down lengthways into a piece of dough as if trying to cut it in half down the middle. When you've pushed the skewer in half-way, roll the dough gently round the stick using your fingertips.

You should end up with a very thin, sausage-shaped piece of pasta with the stick through the middle. When the pasta is rolled just thinner than a cigarette, stop rolling and gently pull it off, making sure you pull on the stick rather than the dough. Giving the stick a twist will also 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 tray, dusted with semolina flour, to dry out slightly before using.

When you have laid all the pieces out on a tray and dusted them with semolina flour, you can start to make the ragu sauce. Heat a saucepan  big enough to hold all the sauce ingredients, add a splash of olive oil and the chopped onion and garlic, and cook slowly for about 10 minutes until soft and lightly coloured. Add the bay leaves, the whole sprig of rosemary, the minced beef or veal and the tomatoes. Stir will and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for 2hours with a lid on the pan.

If the sauce starts to stick at any point, add a splash of hot water and stir well. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using a pair of tongs, fish out the bay leaves and rosemary sprig and discard them.

Cook the pici in a pan of boiling salted water for around 10 - 15 minutes until cooked through but still al dente. Drain and then stir them into the hot ragu sauce.Ad a good spash of olive oil, then taste and season again if necessary. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan.

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