18 May 2012

pici con calamari

It’s amazing what you find that you have stocked away in your kitchen when it comes time to move. As we were furiously packing boxes for moving day, we came upon many pantry items that we’d been saving for a special occasion. 

Too good for everyday use, most of these jars of sauces, condiments or speciality items were gotten on trips to exotic places. Among these were several packages of pici pasta that we brought back from our time in Italy

Pici is a thick, hand-rolled, egg-less spaghetti that is only available in the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany. This small area between Montalcino and Montepulciano is home to sprawling vineyards, olive groves and picturesque views of ancient cypress trees.

Pici is typical of cucina povera (poor man’s cuisine) — utilizing only durum wheat flour, water, green Tuscan olive oil and a lot of loving time and effort. It’s usually paired with a meat sauce or ragu, allowing the purity of the saltless flour and unique texture of the noodles to create a sublime pairing with the richness of other ingredients.

In honor of the one year anniversary of our trip to Italy, and to celebrate our first home-cooked Italian meal in our new house, I pulled out a package of pici that we bought in Pienza. Opting for an uncomplicated, use-what-you-have-on-hand approach, I made a simple squid and tomato sauce to compliment the noodles.

 Pici (or any other spaghetti) noodles
2 medium squid, cleaned & diced
cups grape tomatoes, halved
¼ bunch of parsley, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, halved and smashed
salt & pepper
2 tsp peperoncino
1 cup white wine
extra virgin olive oil
grated parmesan cheese

Halve garlic cloves and smash. Saute' garlic and peperoncino in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil.   When garlic starts to turn golden, discard.  Add diced cuttlefish.  Cook on medium heat a few minutes. Add white wine.  Increase heat and let liquid evaporate. Reduce heat to low and add tomatoes and parsley (reserving some for later).  Season with salt & pepper.  Cook pasta. Add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water to sauce. When ready, serve with chopped parsley and cheese.