Pici Pasta in Smoky Squash Sauce
February 28, 2020
Pici pasta takes comfort-carbs to the next level. Traditionally from Tuscany, it’s like a much thicker spaghetti with a much rougher, less uniform texture which means it’s curiously satisfying to slurp up an entire bowl. What’s more, pici has vegan origins as it’s made using just flour, water, salt and olive oil. This pasta works best with simple, smooth, glossy sauces which allow the moreish bite of the noodles to speak for themselves. We’ve paired it with a sweet, slightly smoky sauce made from butternut squash and cashew cream which is going to blow your mind.
- Yield: 4 Servings 1x
For the Roasted Squash Sauce
- 50g raw unsalted cashews
- 1 large butternut squash
- 5–8 sage leaves
- 3 cloves garlic
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch flaky sea salt
- 50g vegan butter
- 230 ml vegetable stock
- pinch grated nutmeg
- 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
For the Pici Pasta
- 400g Type ‘00’ flour (plus around 150g more for dusting)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1½ tsp fine sea salt
To Roast the Squash
- Preheat the oven to 170c.
- Place the cashews in a cup and cover with boiling water. Cover and leave to soak for a minimum of 1 hour.
- Slice the butternut squash in half lengthways and place on a baking tray. Tear the sage leaves and sprinkle over the sliced squash. Without peeling, crush the cloves of garlic with the side of a knife. Sprinkle with a pinch of the paprika and reserve the rest. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of flaky sea salt. Place in the oven for a minimum of 40 minutes or until the squash is tender all over and feels soft when pricked with a fork. The roasting time will vary depending on the size of your squash.
- While the squash roasts, make the pasta.
To Make the Pasta
- In a medium bowl, mix together the pasta ingredients along with 200ml of water. Mix well with a spoon until the dough just about comes together then switch to using your hand. Once you have a good ball of dough, turn it out onto a clean surface.
- Knead the dough well for at least 10 minutes (set a timer!). After ten minutes of kneading the dough should have changed texture and should be very smooth and not sticky.
- Pat the dough into a rough oblong. Using a sharp knife, slice the rectangle of dough into strips. Ideally each strip should weigh between 20 and 24g but if you’d like to skip the weighing, just slice the rectangle into around 20 strips.
- Place the strips onto a plate and cover with a damp tea-towel. Place one strip of dough onto a clean, un-floured surface and use the flat of both palms to roll the strip against the table, moving your palms from the centre of the strip outwards as you roll. You should end up with a long, thick, shoelace of pasta, around the width of a chopstick.
- Pour the remaining 150g of flour into a bowl and drop the rolled pasta into the flour before placing on a floured baking tray and covering with a damp tea-towel. Repeat the process until all your pasta has been rolled out. Making sure all the pasta is covered, set it aside.
- Once the squash is roasted and tender, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for around 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scrape out the inside of the squash and place it in the cup of a high speed blender. Also add the roasted sage leaves and squeeze out the soft, roasted garlic from their crispy outer layer and add to the blender too.
- Blend until very, very smooth. If you don’t trust your blender, be sure to pass the mixture through a sieve too – the mixture should be really smooth. Meanwhile, heat a wide saucepan over medium heat and add the vegan butter.
- Once the vegan butter is melted and bubbling, add the squash puree to the pan. Add the vegetable stock, remaining paprika, nutmeg and black pepper and mix to combine. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat slightly and cook on low for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the mixture is reduced and thick.
- Drain the soaked cashews and add them to the cup of a high-speed blender along with 80ml of cold water. Blend until very smooth and then add to the reduced squash sauce.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a good few pinches of sea salt. Take a portion of pasta and boil for 5 minutes. Before removing the pasta from the water, take a ladle of the pasta water and add it to the squash sauce. The sauce should now look glossy and very smooth.
- Remove the pasta from the water using a pasta server (the thing that looks like an upturned claw) and add it to the sauce. Again, using the pasta server, remove the pasta from the sauce and plate up. Top with some shredded sage leaves and a little extra black pepper before serving.
Find the full detailed recipe with step-by-step and pictures for this pici and squash sauce below. It’s a good idea to have a read through if you’ve never made pasta before, but trust me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how simple it is!
Keywords: pici pasta, vegan pasta
To Make the Pasta
There are four main steps to making this super simple pasta. It doesn’t require a pasta machine and is done completely by hand. Pici also has a very forgiving lumpy bumpy texture (unlike spaghetti) so if you’ve never made pasta before, this might be a great place to start. Follow these four steps for picture perfect pici!
The dough comes together quickly and doesn’t require much technique, so just get all your ingredients into a bowl and mix them together. It’ll seem a little dry to begin with, but keep going until all the flour is picked up by the ball of dough.
Once all your ingredients have come together, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Tip the dough out onto a clean surface and knead it for a good ten minutes. Kneading techniques vary depending on who you ask. The only important thing is that you’re stretching out the dough and activating the gluten in the flour. You’ll know if your kneading has worked because the dough should eventually turn very smooth and shouldn’t have a sticky texture.
Once your dough is nice and smooth, you need to divide it into strips. These stips will be rolled out into big long shoe laces, but at this stage, it sort of doesn’t matter what shape they’re in. Simply flatten the ball of dough into a rough rectangle and try to square off the edges slightly. Use a sharp knife to slice of a thin strip of dough and pop it on a set of scales – it should weigh around 20g. Keep slicing until all your dough is divided. Keep the sliced strips under a damp tea-towel to stop them from drying out.
Finally, to shape the strips of dough into pici, place one on a clean surface. Using the flat of both palms pushing downwards, roll the strip of dough forwards and backwards while simultaneously moving each hand outward from the centre of the strip. The dough should become longer and thinner until it’s around the width of a chopstick. To stop the pasta sticking together, dunk the rolled dough in some flour and set aside. Repeat until you’ve prepared all of your dough.
To Make the Sauce
Again, there are a few steps to this process but it’s really worth getting it right. This is one of the tastiest pasta sauces out there and, if done properly, you’ll keep that delicious orange colour of the squash.
First step is to roast your squash. If you peel and dice the squash first you’ll lose too much moisture to evaporation and the edges of the squash will caramelise meaning you’ll lose that gorgeous golden colour. Avoid this by simply slicing the squash in half, dressing with some oil, salt, smoked paprika, garlic and sage, then roasting at 170c for at least an hour.
Once the squash is fully roasted, it should be soft enough to scoop out of its skin with a spoon. The next step is to blend it until super smooth. Make sure you get all that delicious roasted garlic and sage involved too – throw it into the blender with the squash.
Next you’ll want to combine the squash puree with the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. I recommend doing this in a large, wide open saucepan or a super deep frying pan. That way the mixture has a bigger surface area and more moisture can evaporate. We want this mixture to become super thick with a crazy concentrated flavour.
To finish the sauce, we need to cream it up! That means whizzing up our soaked cashews with some water to make a cashew cream. Fun fact: if you’re allergic to nuts, you can do the exact same thing with sunflower seeds instead. To finish, add a splash of pasta water and your sauce should be smooth, glossy and incredibly tasty. Drain some pici, add it to the sauce and then serve!