Pici (Or: Handmade Pasta For Idiots)

For those of you who aspire to make pasta at home but don’t have the time or the will or the resources (like, a pasta machine), here’s a recipe for you. It’s called Pici and it’s one of the more satisfying things I’ve made for dinner in recent memory. You may be thinking: “Adam, didn’t you just post a pasta recipe two days ago?” It’s true; and on this particular week when I made the pici, I’d only had that other pasta dinner three days earlier. But watching David Chang’s Mind Of A Chef on PBS (a pretty excellent show), I started to get a hankering for noodles. In Japan, people eat noodles all the time; why couldn’t I have noodles for dinner a second time in one week? Damn it, I deserve it! Only these noodles–ah, pasta (Michael White yelled at me for calling pasta “noodles” once)–would be handmade and would only take me 15 minutes. Don’t believe me?

Look, I’ll show you. I found the recipe on L.A. Magazine’s site. You start by stirring together 3 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt:


Add 1/2 large egg beaten to blend and 1 cup of room temperature water.


Work that together and knead in the bowl until you have a ball that’s smooth (about 5 minutes).


Flatten it, rub it with olive oil, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. (Ok, ok, I know I said it would only take 15 minutes but I meant 15 minutes of work. During this part you can go watch TV or something).

While it’s resting, start making your tomato sauce. I sautéed half an onion in olive oil until translucent, then added 3 or 4 cloves of sliced garlic, some chopped thyme and a dash of red pepper flakes.


To that, add a 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon, turn up the heat and allow to bubble away and reduce while you make your pici.

If you’ve ever played with Play-Dough, you can make pici. All you do is cut the dough in half, then cut that half into strips (about a 1/2-inch wide) and roll each strip into a snake. See?


Toss the snakes with a little flour on a plate until you’re done.


There you are: homemade pici.

Now bring a pot of water to a boil with a good amount of salt and drop it in to cook.


Because it’s handmade, it won’t take very long. After 2 or 3 minutes, lift a piece of pici out with tongs and taste. You want it al dente, but not raw. When it’s just there, lift all of the pici into the pan with the tomato sauce.


Turn up the heat and toss all around with the tongs.


Mmmm…I’m drooling just looking at that picture and I’m the one who actually got to eat it. At the very end, drizzle with olive oil and add a handful of grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese tossing all around. Then lift with tongs into bowls and sprinkle with even more cheese.


So now those of you too timid to make homemade pasta have no excuse. This is pici and it’s about to enter your life in a big way.

42 thoughts on “Pici (Or: Handmade Pasta For Idiots)”

  1. This looks great. Very similar to spaetzle, just bigger. I would brown them in a bit of butter before adding them to the sauce, as I would spaetzle.

  2. Love it. Pasta’s one of those things that can be very refined or very rustic. This is the rough-and-tumble version! I’m going to try cutting down the water and adding tomato paste; I’ve been craving tomato pasta. Wish me luck!

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      My hunch is that it wouldn’t work as well, but I’m not a fan of whole wheat pasta to begin with. Maybe do a search?

  3. Made this pici tonight with a mushroom-tomato-creme fraiche ragu. In 90 minutes (most of which was downtime), I had a killer meal — and there are lots of leftovers. Thanks Adam!

  4. Another no-brainer noodle recipe
    1 cup flour 5 oz.
    1 egg. Large
    1/2 tsp. salt
    Milk. 1/2 of the egg shell

    Mix ingredients well
    Place on floured work surface and knead untill not sticky.
    I use a noodle maker to make Fettuccine but you can make any kind of noodle with the dough.

    Note. Put milk in half of the egg shell, I use the larger half.

  5. Thanks to your post, I doubled the recipe and had a small pasta-making party at my place last night. It was delicious, and good fun as well. I just wish the pasta had been a little bit more salty – but that’s perhaps my fault for not having any parmesan around the house.

  6. I made this last night and my kids and husband ate 2 helpings each. The sauce was great, but I think that they liked the appearance of the pasta which would be a great Halloween dish. It really looked like albino dreadlocks or maybe cave worms.

  7. So I’m giving this a shot. First problem: the dough was really sticky (and I didn’t even add all the water), and became more so as I kneaded it. I ended up adding quire a bit more flour. It’s resting now, but is this what’s supposed to happen?

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      All flour acts differently, you we’re right to adjust. Just don’t make the dough too dry (wetter is better). Good luck!

      1. Thanks. Humidity is also a factor. Next time I’ll start with 1/2 cup water and add more as needed. They turned out okay; they tended to flatten out as they sat, which might indicate that the dough could have been kneaded longer. I really want to be able to do a very easy homemade pasta as an anti-Barilla statement.

        1. I usually make the dough a bit on the drier side, then while I’m kneading it I dip my fingers of the hand I’m kneading with every once in a while in a cup of water and let the dough take water this way as it needs it. When it starts getting a bit sticky I stop dipping.

  8. I had this with all kinds of different sauces whilst in Tuscany. Couldn’t get enough of it. In some places they don’t even use egg at all; Just flour and water.

  9. The pasta shown in the above pictures is really made by an idiot! Pici must be thiner! The dought must be stretched with a rolling pin up to a tickness of two millimeters, then cutted into stripes of one centimeter. Each stripe must be rolled until it takes a spaghetti shape!

    1. Slapdash Gourmet

      I agree with Giovanna that the noodles look too thick, but my bigger confusion is that there’s egg in the dough. When I had it in Tuscany I was told that pici is specifically an eggless pasta.

    2. Whoa, harsh – at least he gave it a go.
      And seemed pretty happy with the result.
      I’m all for people making food from scratch and getting better with experience [and encouragement!]

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