Friday, May 07, 2004

Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola (by Steve)

SIENA (#48)

We’ve tried this a few times and it is rapidly becoming a family favorite. Rucola -- they call it ROO-ho-la in Siena -- is a very delicate, small leafy green that is eaten raw as a salad. It has a wonderful bitter flavor that goes well with meat. For example, it is typically served with carpaccio, a raw, thinly sliced beef sprinkled with olive oil and shaved parmesan cheese.

The pici (pronounced PEE-chee) are the perfect pasta for this sauce: the big, chewy noodles are a lot of work to eat. Together with the rich and savory flavors, it makes for a thoroughly satisfying dish in every way, wonderful with a big red wine.

We have served this to Paola Corsini and Marco Gherardi and his family. And as far as we know, our guests are none the worse for the wear and would probably come back for more if we were to invite them.

2 cloves garlic
¼ c. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fennel seed
1 lb. ground meat
150 grams rucola (a bitter, delicate, green lettuce)
1 kg fresh pici (or 600 grams dried pici, long spaghetti or bucatini)
Salt, black pepper, red pepper
Grated cheese (grana or romano)

Optional additions:
2 plum tomatoes
6-8 leaves of radicchio (a hearty, bitter red lettuce)
Ground pork (or wild boar) can be substituted for the ground beef.

First I toast the fennel seed in a heavy skillet until brown. I add the olive oil, the garlic and a dash of red pepper and sauté until the garlic is lightly browned and remove the garlic. (Leave it in if you want an even more pungent sauce). It may be my imagination, but I think that simmering the red pepper with the oil, even a little bit of red pepper, releases more of the flavor.

Then I add the meat to the oil mixture, simmering until it is brown. Here in Siena, the ground meat is so lean that you really need to add oil to sauté it. But if you are using a fattier cut, you might want to brown it separately and remove most of fat before mixing the browned meat with the oil, fennel and garlic mixture. You decide.

If you want, you can a small amount of fresh tomatoes at this time, immediately reducing the heat so that they begin to break down but the meat does not turn into a tomato sauce. The texture and color should really resemble ground meat, not a ragú. If you are not ready to serve the pasta, you can set this aside.

Meanwhile, bring your water to boil. About 6-8 minutes before you are ready to eat (or more if you are using dried pasta), you can go ahead and “butta la pasta.” Now you need to bring the meat mixture to a simmer again adding the radicchio if you want. The radicchio is tougher than the rucola and needs a little bit of time to soften up but not so much that it gets mushy.

Drain the pasta when it is cooked and toss it with the meat mixture adding the rucola. Serve immediately with grated cheese.

COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-05-07 20:37:14 Barbara
Re: Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola
Sounds delicious.  I remember eating rucola on our recent Tuscany tour.  Did you see shops in San Gimignano with a boar's head out front and directions not to touch.  The boar sausage is so good.

2004-05-07 23:10:31 Roz
Re: Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola
I'm trying to find an available substitute for the rucola.  Would you say, perhaps, watercress, or arugola , or....what?   And for the pici, macaroncelli?  Finally, at what point do you add the rucola? Oh, and what's your middle name!

2004-05-08 03:24:00 BubbieBarbi
Re: Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola
Stefano--It's about time!  You've been there three months, and this is your first appetite grabber. Doreen made us drool over 20 days of menus and then threw in Macaroon dessert.  I was beginning to wonder if you were fasting......  This sounds good!  Complimente al chef!

2004-05-08 05:55:03 stefano
Re: Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola
As far as I can tell, arugola and rucola are the same thing.  But that is like saying that pears here or perhaps cantaloupe are the ""same"" as they are in the states, and that's not entirely true.  It gets tossed in at the end.

2004-05-09 07:33:09 stefano
Re: Pici (or Bucatini) con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola
What is a good substitute for fresh pici?  There are dried pici here but I think they are just long round noodles slightly fatter than spagetti.  They are not quite the same as the fresh ones we are using which are significantly fatter still.  The problem with pici is that they can be difficult to cook.  The outside can start to get mushy while the inside is underdone.  Given how difficult this is even when they are fresh, I doubt the dried pici can be as thick as the fresh ones, at least I have not seen them.  And I am not aware of either fresh or dried pici being made in or exported to the states.

However, bucatini (or bucatoni) might be a good substitute.  They provide a substantial chew (like a rigatoni) and they are also long.

2004-05-09 15:47:42 mhshaw
Re: Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola
Rucola is arugula in the States. Maureen

2004-05-12 21:17:43 stefano
Re: Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola (by Steve)
Doreen was just reading up on pici and learned some interesting things.  First of all, they are not made with durhum wheat or semolina.  Instead they are made with soft wheat.  And second, they were traditionally made by hand by slicing long strips and then rolling them until they become round.  How about that?

2004-08-22 02:37:4248 bobdale
Re: Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola (by Steve)
steve:  you've come a long way from the pizza bread you cobbled together in our freshman dorm.  by the way, there's not question that sauteeing red pepper releases their oils and greatly increases their potency (which is why it is good advice to use only a small amount).



Gavino said...

This recipe looks AWESOME. Gonna have to try it soon...

stefanoq said...

Do it! Let me know how it comes out.