Just Pici

 I know, I know.  It’s officially been MONTHS since I last posted!  And while it feels like so much has happened, I haven’t had a second to write any of it down. Which makes this more of a quarterly newsletter than a blog, but so be it.

First off, I started my new job.  So far, so good from an actual work standpoint; I love the place, the people, the work.  I’m a little overwhelmed by the difference in expectations, but I saw that coming, so I was at least emotionally prepared to look like an asshole. Honestly, what’s been most remarkable about this whole change is the hellish scheduling nightmare that is now our life. Tygh and I now spend a good portion of our free time planning around our plans.  Our whole lives are currently listed on this new scheduling app we found (Cozi – ever heard of it?  Super user friendly, with places for grocery lists, to-do lists, birthday, etc. Total lifesaver).  It feels a little neurotic, but between summer camps, call schedules, late shifts, early shifts, childcare, meetings, conferences, doctor’s appointments, grocery lists, etc., we haven’t much choice.  And, as one of my dear, busy, busy, Tatie’s says, “Lists are life!”  So, we got THAT going for us.

Meanwhile, the kids seem to have adapted well to my increased absence, which was a pleasant surprise.  In fact, they hardly seem to notice I’m gone more.  Not sure what that says about my parenting, but there you go.

Let’s see…what else?  Oooh! I’ve recently found these new online work-out videos with which I am obsessed.  They are by this young woman who does all of these crazy HIIT, body weight, Tabata-style workouts; so great since I really don’t have spare time to get my ass to the gym and it’s so motivating to pseudo not-workout-alone. I barely make it through any of them, but I swear, I’m getting in shape just watching her.  I’ve included the link here if you are interested. Ignore the music.

And, finally, we just had the most incredible family vacation!  We went to Italy with Tygh’s extended family for a celebratory trip and it was so wonderful.  While I’ve really worked on trying to keep my expectations exceedingly low when it comes to vacationing with my children – it’s really the key to traveling with kids while still experiencing vacation fulfillment and happiness - this trip was a success story virtually any way you look at it: 

1.     Everyone was sick with some kind of URI the day we left.  You know, the one where everyone is coughing and sniffling and snotty and gross and intermittently feverish?  Right before you get on a plane for 10 hours to sleep sitting up?  Yup. That’s the one.  So great.

2.     The kids ate nothing but pasta with olive oil and parm and straciatella gelato.  For nine days.  Not one single fruit or vegetable passed through the lips of either of my children. But they continued to poop, so I figure, no harm done.

3.     Harvey fell into the Europeans-don’t-have-safety-regulations unfenced pool while we were having breakfast about 50 feet away.  Luckily, the water was cold enough to motivate him to swim to safety even before I got there, sprinting at full speed, screaming and waving my hands in the air, with warm Nutella toast still clinging to my lips.  Boo-yah swimming lessons.

4.     As luck would have it, Italian wine does not give me reflux.  Or a hangover.  Even in very large amounts.  Someone, please, explain this to Tygh who will have to help me maintain this imported wine habit.

5.     Socialized medicine is fantastic.  No!  Really!  Our youngest fell off of this 5 foot wall during another period of unobserved play (see number 4)  and we ended up in an Italian ER getting his first stiches.  Like all good American travelers, we speak not a word of Italian.  And they spoke no English.  We didn’t have our passports.  They didn’t care! I tried handing them my insurance card, my credit card, even cash!  They didn’t want it! We were put in a large room with a gurney in the center while patients and doctors and nurses all milled about (What’s that you say? Patient privacy?? Phooey.), intermittently looking at HJ (who was freaking the fuck out) and crying out “Poverino, Bambino!”  I’m still reeling from how it all went down, but basically, our little bruiser got 2 stiches in the forehead, some band-aids and two stuffed animals - all for free. Beat that, Senate healthcare repeal!

So, now you’re pretty much up to date!  Which brings me to the original motivation to write you: pasta!  I was lucky enough to have an impromptu cooking class with an Italian chef one afternoon and came home with a few skills I didn’t have before, one of which is making pici (said pee-chee), a fat version of a spaghetti-shaped noodle local to Tuscany (Siena, to be exact).  The shape pairs well with everything from butter and parmesan to your favorite bolognese.  It’s supposed to be imperfect and rustic, rolled into shape by hand, so it requires no pasta crank or any other special equipment (read: you literally can’t fuck this up). The “recipe” the chef gave me went something like this (say out loud, using your thickest Italian accent):

“Put soma flour in a bowla (insert drawing of a bowl here.  Not kidding.  He drew a bowl).  Adda some water.  Adda some olive oil.  Add salta but only ina the summer, nota ina the winter.  Justa little bit. Then, mix it aaaaall together.  With your handsa.  Let it rest a bit.  Rrrroll it out. Then, coooook it.”

Hence, the utility of doing it with him and seeing how much “soma” flour actually was. 

Once I got the feel for it, I worked backwards and I think I’ve come up with a recipe that closely resembles what he made.

I’ve got a few more recipes on my mind, so hopefully I’ll be back before too long (you 12 faithful readers, you).  In the meantime, if you’re like my children, you’ll hardly noticed my absence. 

 Pici Cacio e Pepe - minus the pepe for the bambino...

Pici Cacio e Pepe - minus the pepe for the bambino...

Pici 

Note, the chef I worked with preferred “00” flour.  Contrary to some circulating information, it can have a fairly high protein content, much like American bread flour, which helps give pasta that satisfying chew. If you can’t find any (check your local grocer or Amazon), all-purpose flour will work just fine.  Bone apettito!

Ingredients

240 g “00” flour (about a cup)

¼ cup tepid water

pinch of salt

1-2 tsp olive oil

Rice flour, for storing

Directions:

Pour flour onto a clean surface/counter top, shaping it into a large mound. Make a well in the center.  Pour olive oil, salt and about ½ the water into the well and, using a fork, begin incorporating the flour along the periphery into the liquid in the center.  You will start to get a thick, batter-like consistency. 

Add more water, and continue incorporating the flour until it gets too thick to use your fork.  Using your hand, begin kneading the forming dough, incorporating some remaining flour as you go.  The dough should become mildly stiff and not at all sticky.  Knead for about 4-5 minutes.  You may not use all the flour, and that’s ok.  Once a smooth, non-sticky dough has formed, put it in a Ziploc bag and let it rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes ( you can let it sit longer, as well).

 

 

To shape:

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it’s about 1/2” thick.  Cut into long strips, about ¼-1/2“ wide.  Then, using your hand, roll each strip along the surface you are working on, or between your palms (like you did with play-doh when you were a kid making snakes) until it becomes a thick spaghetti noodle.  It will become very long, up to a few feet! You can keep whole or split into smaller noodles - up to you! Place on a rimmed baking sheet or large dish towel covered with rice flour.  Repeat with each strand of dough, until you have used it all.  If you want to be authentic about it, these are best enjoyed the day they are made, cooked for 2-3 minutes in salted, boiling water and topped any way you want.  You can technically keep the dough, well-wrapped, in the fridge for a day or so.  You can also shape and freeze the noodles for up to a month.