One of the highlights from my recent trip to Italy was most definitely the food.
Being fall, it was not only olive oil season (which translated into a lovely ‘olive oil tasting dinner’) but also white truffle season. At close to €2000/kilo (which was apparently quite cheap, as referenced in the blog Fresh Truffles) I did not have an extensive encounter with the pricey fungi, but did manage to savor them over pasta one lunch.
What I did have, on what became a fairly regular (read daily) basis, was, what is called in Tuscany, pici (peachy) pasta. Pici is basically a homemade and hand rolled fat spaghetti. It is delicious. Much of the time it is served simply with “cheese and pepper.” I was glad to have my vision of what that might be corrected–somehow I pictured a sort of nacho cheese sauce, with fajita style bell peppers. The cheese, as it turned out, was local pecorino and the pepper was simply freshly ground cracked black pepper. Did I mention it was delicious?
I am not sure if pici is available freshly made in the US–I’m sure it must be somewhere. But I do know that here in Baja it is not something you find Estela’s, the local tienda. So, I decided to try and make it myself. A brief google search lead me to a recipe on Hunter Gardner Angler Cook. Having no semolina flour, I substituted masa. Rolling the strands out by hand (see photos in the recipe description) was a bit tricky at first, but really fun in a playdough kind of way once I got the hang of it.
On my first attempt, I tried it with just cheese (I had shaved Parmesan–not at all the same as fresh pecorino) and pepper. I also forgot to check how long to cook the pici and overcooked it somewhat.
For my second attempt I was able to roll much thinner pici, and cooked them only 3-4 minutes for a delicious aldente consistency. I also experimented with the following ‘sauce':
Butternut Squash, rosemary, and carmelized onions
Slice onion (1/person)
Saute onion in butter and olive oil on very low heat, for 45-60 min
Finely dice butternut squash (about 1 cup/person)
Add squash to onion once onion has turned transluscent
Add a bit of water so onion and squash don’t stick
Add hole cloves of garlic to taste
Add sprigs of fresh rosemary to taste
Add nutmeg, salt
Once squash has become tender and onion is carmelized, remove from sauce pan and roast in the oven or toaster oven for another 15 minutes.
Juice lemon and mix with honey, about half a lemon for half a teaspoon of honey.
Drizzle honey/lemon mixture over butternut squash as it is roasting
Serve butternut squash over pici, add crumbled queso fresco (or goat cheese or pecorino) and garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary.