In speaking of dishes that we consider starches, one can see that the starch itself very often acts as a platform for whichever ingredients we put over, around, or inside them. Simply put, the accompanying ingredients are what makes the dish unique. Whether it’s roast duck over congee, kalonji on tandoori bread, or ceci on bruschetta -- these bases, while very important, often play second string to the accessories of the dish.
Focusing on pastas, more specifically pici, I find a noodle whose distinct bite sets it apart from the rest, although it is a bit laborious to form.
Originating in the northern parts of Italy, known as bigoli in Sienna, pici has a soft chew and slight give that when made fresh most closely resembles soba noodles. Having made the pasta many times, I found a good ratio was 3 parts AP flour : 3 parts semolina : 1 part water. Once mixed, knead, and let rest. Divide into managable pieces, and roll out to about a 1mm thickness, and cut the resulting sheet into 3”x6” pieces and feed through the cutter of the pasta machine; yielding uniform matchstick strands. Now the pici must be rolled out smooth.
This is where some good kitchen ingenuity, not my own, led to discovering the best way to efficiently achieve this. Using a perforated sheet pan flipped upside down, one can quickly roll out the pici, occasionally dusting the resulting layers with semonlina to prevent drying out. The perforations in the sheet pan grip the slighty moist pasta just enough to give you some traction when working out the corners of the pieces into smooth round noodles. Care must be taken to only cut as much pici as you're able to roll per five minute period, as the longer the cut strands sit, the dryer they become; and the exterior starts to crack as you attemp to roll it out.
Transfer the sheet pan, once covered in a single layer, to the freezer overnight, to be cooked off the next day. It is important to cut the AP flour with an equal amount of semolina, as the semolina gives it a distinct bite, whereas pure AP would result in a doughy chew.
Whether tossed with meyer lemon juice, basil, and Parmesean a la Morandi, in a sauce of cock’s combs and black truffles a la Babbo, or cooked with cuttlefish and razor clams a la Bar Milano (possibly the best pasta I’ve had, ever), pici is a versatile and distinct addition to any pasta lover's repertoire--and well worth the effort.