If you've never made pasta before, pasta expert Meryl Feinstein recommends starting with pici, a thick, hand-rolled spaghetti from Siena that looks like a plump udon noodle. Pici is made with all-purpose flour, water, and olive oil, and it doesn't require any special equipment, making it especially approachable for beginners. Feinstein likes to coat the dough in olive oil before rolling it out because pasta dough dries out quickly. "The more time you take to roll out the pieces, the more the surface will dry out and start to crack. I never like people to feel rushed, and olive oil is a little bit of insurance; it keeps the dough silky and smooth."Pair the handmade pasta with a simple, jammy sauce of sheet pan–roasted canned tomatoes and garlic.

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Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Neville Crawford

Recipe Summary test

active:
1 hr 35 mins
total:
2 hrs 50 mins
Servings:
4
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Ingredients

Sauce
Pasta

Directions

Make the sauce:
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour tomatoes with juices into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Swirl 1/4 cup water into empty can to capture juices; set aside.

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  • Cut tops off garlic heads to expose cloves; sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Nestle garlic, cut side up, in center of tomatoes. Drizzle garlic and tomatoes with oil, making sure exposed cloves are coated in oil. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Roast in preheated oven 45 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully remove foil. (Steam will be released.) Increase oven temperature to 425°F, and immediately return baking dish to oven. Bake at 425°F until garlic is soft and caramelized in spots, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes.

  • Squeeze garlic cloves from skins into tomato mixture; discard skins. Transfer tomato-garlic mixture to a blender. Process until smooth, about 15 seconds. (Alternatively, mash tomatoes and garlic together in a medium bowl until well combined.) Transfer 1 1/2 cups sauce to a large skillet or saucepan; freeze remaining sauce for another use. Stir butter and reserved tomato water in can into sauce in skillet. Cover and cook over medium, undisturbed, 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

While tomato mixture roasts, make the pasta:
  • Pulse flour, 3/4 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon oil in a food processor until ingredients are evenly distributed and couscous-like beads of dough form, about 5 pulses. Mixture should come together easily when pressed; if too dry, add warm water, 1 teaspoon at a time, pulsing after each addition. If too sticky, pulse in a dust- ing of flour. Transfer dough to a work surface. Knead until smooth and firm, 5 to 10 minutes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature 1 hour.

  • Dust 2 large baking sheets with semolina flour. Cut a one-quarter portion from dough; rewrap remaining dough to prevent it from drying out. Flatten smaller dough portion using palm of your hand. Using a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll dough into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangular slab. Brush slab on all sides with 1 teaspoon oil to prevent drying and cracking. Cut slab into 1/4-inch- wide strips. Using your fingers, roll each strip into a thin, rustic strand (2 to 3 millimeters thick). Coil each strand into a spiral; place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining wrapped dough and oil, cutting 1 portion at a time and keeping remaining dough portions covered.

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high; season with salt as desired. Carefully unfurl pici, shaking off any excess semolina, and drop into boiling water. Stir gently to prevent sticking. Cook, undisturbed, until tender, about 3 minutes. While pici cook, uncover sauce, and reheat over medium-low, stirring often.

  • Using tongs, transfer cooked pici to sauce in skillet, reserving cooking liquid in pot. Cook mixture, gradually adding cheese and stirring constantly, until cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Loosen sauce by adding reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, if needed. Divide pici evenly among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with additional cheese, and drizzle with additional oil. Garnish with basil, if desired, and serve imm diately.

Make Ahead

Pasta can be prepared through step 5; roll strands in semolina before coiling, and freeze on baking sheet until solid, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a ziplock plastic freezer bag; freeze up to 3 months. Boil frozen pici as directed in step 6, adding 1 to 2 minutes to cook time and gently stirring to release coils.

Suggested Pairing

Light-bodied, lively Italian red: Coppo L'Avvocata Barbera d'Asti

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