Living in Los Angeles, you are faced with the challenge of where to eat. It’s not that there aren’t any good places to go, it’s quite the opposite; there are too many places to choose from! Whenever I come across a restaurant I want to try, I add it to my list, and Bestia has been on my list for quite some time. Finally after many months, I found an occasion to visit the restaurant. It was beyond my expectations, delivering some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. I kid you not, I made reservations the following day to visit again (it’s a two month wait!) Inspired by my meal, I decided to make a little homemade Italian dish, pici with lamb ragu. Pici is a great pasta to make if you don’t have a pasta machine as the noodles are all hand rolled. It takes a little time, but trust me, the results are outstanding.
- 2 cups semolina flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups tepid water
- pinch of saffron
- 2 tbsp hot water
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 celery rib, finely diced
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp chopped thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/3 cup dry red wine
- One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Prepare pici according to recipe.
- Steep saffron in hot water. Let sit for one hour.
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add carrot, onion and celery and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lamb, coriander, thyme, fennel, cumin, rosemary, saffron and water, cooking until lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add tomato paste, stirring until well combined with the lamb. Add red wine and cook until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Open lid slightly, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add prepared pici and cook until noodles float to the top, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the water.
- Toss together pasta with ragu, adding reserved water. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.
For pici recipe, click here
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
If you’re wondering what pici is, it is a type of pasta that is hand rolled. Think of it as “fat spaghetti.” Coincidentally, after visiting Bestia, I was watching one of my favorite shows, “The Chew” and watched Mario Batali prepare this very same pasta. He made it look so easy, it convinced me that I had to prepare it right away.
Unlike other pastas, pici is made of only flour and water – no egg involved. Batali’s recipe includes semolina, which is commonly used to make pastas.
If you ever made pasta by hand, you will quickly realize this is a much simpler version since there is no egg. Slowly add the water to the flour and semolina mixture, mixing until a dough comes together.
Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. You can do this using a mixer, but for some reason, making it by hand seemed more authentic to me. Hey, if you’re going to make the pasta, might as well go all the way, no?
Once the dough is formed and has rested, divide it in half. If you have limited counter space, it is easier to roll out the dough in sections. The instructions in Mario’s recipe seemed a little nondescript, so I decided to roll each strand a little differently than described.
First I divided the dough in half. Cover one half of the dough while working with the other. Roll into a rectangle shape, 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1/4 inch wide strips.
Taking one strand at a time, roll into long dowels about 1/4 inch thick. The pasta does not expand much once cooked so how it looks once you roll it is how it will be once boiled. Repeat steps with remaining dough.
As with all fresh pasta, this pici will cook in a matter of minutes. Dry pasta usually takes 8-10, but fresh can be ready in only 3-4 minutes. Once the pasta starts to float to the top of the water, it is ready. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water – it will be useful later when finishing the dish!
Because pici is a fat, thick, noodle, it pairs well with richer sauces. Lamb ragu seemed like a popular pairing as it was Mario Batali’s choice and the dish listed on Bestia’s menu – so I decided to go with the crowd. This lamb ragu recipe, provided by Food and Wine, prepares the lamb ragu much similar to how I would a regular pasta sauce. The only difference was the addition of spices such as cumin and fennel to compliment the lamb. My own twist was to add saffron to the sauce.
Whenever you use saffron, you want to bloom the spice in warm water before adding it to the dish. This allows the threads to release its flavor. Simply let the saffron sit in hot water for 1 hour before adding it (water and saffron) to the sauce with the other spices.
Shortly after, the sauce comes together. Toss the pasta with the sauce and reserved pasta water. The pasta water will help bind the dish together. Top with freshly grated parmesan and dig in! I truly loved every bite of this dish. The noodles were perfectly al dente, with just the right amount of thickness. Paired with the rich lamb ragu, you really can’t go wrong. Pici with lamb ragu, my new favorite pasta dish!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.