finely grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1–2 lemons
70g finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
150g mascarpone
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
basil leaves, to serve
400g tipo 00 flour
fine sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
200ml warm water
semolina flour for dusting

Originating in Tuscany, pici are like a fat spaghetti. The exact recipe for the dough varies from family to family – sometimes made with semolina flour, sometimes with an egg added. They are very textural and so comforting to eat. There are a few sauces that traditionally accompany this pasta shape – most often a simple garlicky tomato one but also one of toasted breadcrumbs – which are both delicious. However, I’ve been making variations of this lemon sauce since I was 16, after reading a similar recipe in a River Café cookbook. The sauce doesn’t even need its own pan – it is simply warmed over the pot as the pasta is cooking – making for a simple meal that doesn’t require you to stand at the stove for long periods of time. I have had great success using a combination of pure cream and mascarpone, and an equally fine substitute is, of course, dried pici, spaghetti or bucatini (use 320g for four people). I like my sauce quite zingy, so I’ve left the amount of lemon up to you to adjust – start with one lemon and add the rest if you like.


1.To make the pici dough, tip the flour onto a clean work surface and mix with a large pinch of salt.
2.Make a well in the centre, add the olive oil and slowly pour in the warm water.
3.Depending on the flour, you may not need to use as much as 200ml.
4.Use your hands to bring the flour into the water, mixing until you have a rough dough.
5.Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth.
6.Cover with plastic wrap or an upturned bowl and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
7.Roll out the dough to a disc around 1cm thick and then cut the dough into 1cm strips.
8.Roll each strip into a thin rope around 5mm wide.
9.The strips will all be varying lengths, but this doesn’t matter – the beauty of this pasta is the rustic nature.
10.If the remaining dough begins to dry out, you can rub some olive oil into the surface; alternatively, simply cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel.
11.Place the rolled pici on a clean tea towel dusted with semolina flour and continue with the remaining dough.
12.Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
13.In a large heatproof bowl that will fit over your pasta pan, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, parmesan, mascarpone and olive oil.
14.Taste to see if you need to add more lemon – it should be tangy but not too strong.
15.Season with salt and pepper.
16.Place the bowl over the pot and stir, gently warming the mascarpone mixture for 3–4 minutes until it emulsifies and becomes a homogenous, slightly thickened sauce. Set aside.
17.Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta and stir briefly.
18.Cook the pasta for 7–8 minutes until al dente.
19.The pici should be chewy but not chalky.
20.If you find that the sauce has cooled down too much while the pasta is cooking, place the bowl over the boiling water for a minute just before the pasta is done.
21.Drain the pasta, reserving 250ml (1 cup) of the cooking water.
22.Add the pici and most of the cooking water to the sauce and stir to coat.
23.It may seem too runny to begin with, but the hot pasta will quickly take up all of the sauce.
24.If the sauce begins to look dry, add the remaining cooking water, a little at a time, until the sauce is nice and creamy again.
25.Scatter with basil leaves and extra parmesan and serve immediately.

An edited extract from A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura.

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