I love handling dough, whether it’s while baking fresh bread, shaping Asian dumplings, pleating pie crust, or rolling fresh pasta or gnocchi. There’s something truly therapeutic about kneading, rolling, and/or shaping dough. Making gnocchi or other hand-shaped pasta is a unique experience, because believe it or not there are so many different kinds depending on the region or even village in Italy. It’s interesting to see how different these little dumplings are based on geographic location.
Tuscany, for example, is where pinci or pici derives from. These long, thick, rustic noodles are approximately the thickness of a pencil, and have a fantastic chewy texture from the combination of semolina and all-purpose flours.
The dough is rolled out flat, and then cut into strips before rolling each to yield long, imperfect strands. Whether you call then pinci or pici, these are a cross between dumplings and noodles, and they are certainly delicious!
Traditionally served with tomato sauce or meat ragu (the type of meat varies), pinci are fun to make and even more fun to eat. I made a decadent tomato sauce emulsified with butter, and infused with onion, garlic, and a bit of rosemary. the sauce is velvety smooth, and cloaks the noodles beautifully. Both the pinci and sauce freeze well for nearly-last-minute weeknight meals.
(From Pasta by Hand)
255 g/1 1/2 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting
255 g/1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
255 g/1 cup + 1 tablespoon warm water, plus more as needed
Tomato sauce (recipe follows)
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, and salt at medium speed. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon or mix on medium speed until a cohesive but not sticky dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Add more water, 1 Tbsp at a time, and knead with your hands or on medium speed until the dough is smooth and soft without being sticky or dry, about 8 minutes more. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with semolina flour. With a rolling pin, roll the dough on an unfloured work surface into a flat sheet ¹⁄8 in (4 mm) thick, and then cut into ¹⁄8-in- (4-mm-) wide strips. With your hands, roll one strip back and forth on the work surface into a fat spaghetti-like strand. Put the pinci on the prepared baking sheets and shape the remaining dough. Make sure that the pinci don’t touch or they will stick together. (To store, refrigerate on the baking sheets, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days, or freeze on the baking sheets and transfer to an airtight container. Use within 1 month. Do not thaw before cooking.)
Bring a large pot filled with generously salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the pinci and simmer until they float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes. Simmer until slightly al dente, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove immediately with tongs and finish with your choice of sauce. Serve right away.
Makes 3 cups
(From Pasta by Hand)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, halved
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups (1.2 kg) canned whole peeled tomatoes, pureed and strained (I used an equivalent combination of ground peeled tomatoes and tomato sauce)
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, plus more for serving (I omitted the extra for serving)
In a medium pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, rosemary, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. If the onion begins to brown, lower the heat. Add the tomatoes and butter and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thick and soft but not pasty, about 45 minutes. The butter should emulsify into the sauce. Season with salt. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the sauce into the strainer. Discard the solids in the strainer. (To store, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight or until fully thawed.)
To finish pinci or gnocchi with sauce, for each serving, warm about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the tomato sauce in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbsp butter per serving, depending on how naughty you feel, and gently simmer until the bubbles get large and the sauce is not watery along the edges of the pan. The sauce should be thick and silky, not dry or pasty. Add the cooked pinci or gnocchi and simmer for 1 minute to let them absorb the flavor of the sauce. Spoon into serving bowls and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve right away.