I discovered the wonders of pici in Tucany, where it is served commonly with wild boar (the poor old stuffed heads are everywhere, usually sporting spectacles funnily enough). The best I had was in a tiny village high up in Montepescali, in Osteria Sotto Le Logge and one of the best food experiences in my life – our Italian is not great and we did try to weasel the recipe out of the host but didn’t get very far. The pici was swaddled in the most luxurious tomato sauce I have ever experienced. I have tried to recreate it and I think come close but the key is the quality of tomatoes and Italy always wins!
I have spent hours experimenting with getting my tomato sauce perfected and tried all the tricks in the trade (from adding a knob of butter to removing the skins to a flourish of lemon zest, right at the end). My findings have taught me not to bother with fresh tomatoes (unless you have grown your own and have ample to play with), using the best quality Italian tomatoes will give you good results, helped along with plenty of oil, some onion, plenty of garlic, salt, basil and sometimes a little sugar. I always use my food processor to create a smooth consistency and always make a big batch as it freezes well and can be used as a pizza base. Sometimes I add skinned and roasted red peppers to the food processor which creates a blazing red sauce.
This pici recipe is Jamie Olivers, I will use again as I really liked the flavour and texture of the pasta as it retained a good ‘bite’ – link below.
The sauce is made from frying a chopped onion in plenty of olive oil then adding plenty of garlic (I use almost a whole bulb) then two tins of tomatoes. Cook this on a low heat for a good half hour until the sauce becomes quite thick then add to your food processor or bowl (if you’re using a hand blender) and blend until smooth.
Add the smooth sauce to a pan that has a lid, leaving only a small gap for steam to escape and add a good pinch of salt to taste and sugar if you feel it needs sweetening up a little. Cook down on a low-medium heat until your sauce is thick and unctuous. Taste the sauce, check the seasoning and use it to dress your fresh pici – voila!