Hand rolled and cut pici noodles with tempeh, kale and mushroom ragù

Pici are a rustic pasta — like a long, thick spaghetti — deceptively simple and forgiving but more labour intensive than some other types of pasta. As a more robust pasta, they’re paired here with a more robust and heartier sauce with some baby greens and heirloom tomatoes for additional flavor and colour.

Pici are a good noodle to practicing hand rolling — you’ll get a reasonable amount. Expect around 2 hours to make this dish beginning to end, with about 45 minutes of hands-on work. It’s hard to match the texture and feeling of full chewing with pici, but this sauce will also do well with farfalle or gemelli. This makes a good sized appetizer portion for four and a large bowl for two.


For the pasta
2 cups whole wheat flour — the softer the flour, the softer the noodle
1/4t coarse sea salt
1 cup semolina flour
1 to 1 1/4 cup warm water
1T olive oil
4 liters boiling water with 1T coarse sea salt

For the tempeh
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 spring dried kombu (about 2″)
1/4 cup tamari (or to taste)

For the sauce
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/4t coarse sea salt
1T fresh garlic, minced
1T dried basil, rubbed
1/2t dried oregano, rubbed
1/2t dried thyme, rubbed
1/2t red Thai chili paste (or to taste, or similar)
1 scallion, minced (4-6″ green reserved for garnish)
1 medium vidalia onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 medium cremini mushrooms, finely chopped (about 75g)
1T lemon juice
2 cups passata (or tomato puree)
2T coconut sugar (or to taste)
2 cups chopped kale
2T pasta water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1T olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the garnish
1/2 cup baby greens, finely chopped
8-12 heirloom grape tomatoes, halved
Scallion green as above


Make the sauce, then the noodles.

In a small sauce pan with a lid, bring the water and stock to a light simmer. Add the tamari and the tempeh, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer/poach 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another 15 minutes on medium-low. Preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the kombu and add the tempeh and its marinade to a small baking pan with edges. Crumble the tempeh coarsely with the spatula, and bake the tempeh in its marinade for about 30 minutes.

While the tempeh bakes, make the dough for the noodles. Combine the dry ingredients, the wet ingredients, and then the wet with the dry. Add up to an additional 1/4 cup water 1 tablespoon at a time if you need more moisture to reach a smooth dough, which depends on the flour you choose. Knead until you reach a smooth pliable dough and then another 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a warm, moist towel and let rest about 15 minutes.

While the dough rests, start the sauce. In a frying pan with a lid, bring the cooking oil to heat with the sea salt on medium high. Add the herbs and spices and fry for 2 minutes. Add the scallion and vidalia onion and saute for 5 – 7 minutes or until the onion is becoming translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute another 5 minutes, or until they are losing their moisture. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and let the vegetables simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, return to medium high heat and saute until the pan starts to brown. Add the lemon and deglaze. Add the passata and coconut sugar and stir to combine.

Around the 30 minute mark, the tempeh should be starting to brown lightly at this point, and much of the stock should be condensed. Add the passata and vegetables mixture, and stir to combine. Bake for 20 minutes. At the 50 minute market, add the chopped kale in a thin even layer over the top and then bake another 10 minutes. The tempeh should be a nice reddish brown in the sauce, and the kale should be a vibrant green. Ovens vary; use the colour and amount of moisture in the pan as a guide.

While the tempeh and sauce bake, make the noodles. Roll the dough out on a floured board into a long rectangle about 1/8″ thick. You may need to break the dough into two parts depending on the size of your cutting board. Cut the dough in 1/4″ to 1/3″ strips. These don’t have to be perfect — you’re going to roll them by hand and even them out in that process.

When the noodles are cut, roll them gently on the board one hand gently rolling toward you, one hand gently rolling away. You can also roll the pasta with both hands in the same direction — it may not be as even. Roll each noodle out until it’s thinner than a pencil. They’ll be quite long — expect noodles that are in the 14″ – 18″ range. Keep your dough covered with a warm moist cloth while you roll and/or don’t be afraid to dampen your fingers while rolling. Enjoy!

When the sauce is all but done and your noodles are rolled, bring the 4 liters water with the sea salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the noodles, and gently swirl or pull them gentle with a fork to keep them separated. While the noodles cook, remove the sauce from the oven. Add 2T pasta water to the sauce. Toss with nutritional yeast, 1T olive oil and season to taste.

Boil the noodles for 3 – 5 minutes or until they float. For a good, al dente chew, drain them and rinse with cold water. For a softer pasta, cook another minute or two, drain and rinse. Add the pasta to appropriate bowls. Add the sauce, then the garnish, and serve.