Pici and penne: Rukmini Iyer’s budget pasta recipes
Little bouncy pasta bits with an easy broccoli and walnut pesto, and a Roman-style chickpea, tomato and rosemary bowl of penne
A pair of Roman-inspired pasta dishes. If you’ve never tried to make homemade pasta, it really couldn’t be easier than this recipe for pici – little pasta worms with a wonderfully bouncy texture. I’d usually serve them Padella-style with cacio e pepe, but, in a nod to getting one of my five-a-day into dinner, here they’re paired with an easy broccoli and walnut pesto. Pasta with chickpeas and rosemary is another Roman classic, which I’ve taken great liberties with, adding fresh cherry tomatoes and spinach for a moreish and filling supper (which, incidentally, ticks all your food group boxes).
Prep 10 minCook 25 minServes 4
2 tbsp olive oil1 tsp chilli flakes2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated2 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles picked and finely chopped1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped325g baby plum tomatoes, halved2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsedSea salt flakes, to taste200g small-leaved spinach300g penneJuice of 1 lemon
Put the oil in a large, deep frying pan or casserole on a medium heat, then add the chilli, garlic, rosemary and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, for five to six minutes, until just turning translucent. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, season with a good pinch of salt, stir, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the spinach for the last two minutes, just to wilt.
Once the sauce has had 10 minutes, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, then cook the penne for 10-11 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until it’s done to your liking. Drain well, reserving a mugful of the cooking water, then stir the pasta through the tomatoes, chickpeas and spinach in the pan.
Add the lemon juice and pasta water a tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce, taste and add more salt as needed. This pasta dish lives or dies by the attention you pay to the seasoning, so taste, adjust the salt, lemon and pasta water, and taste again – you’ll be rewarded with a really excellent dinner.
Prep 45 minRest 30 minCook 6 minServes 4
For the pici300g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting150ml water1 tbsp olive oil½ tsp sea saltFor the pesto1 head broccoli, cut into florets1 garlic clove, peeled 50g walnuts50g grana padano150ml olive oilJuice of 1 lemon1 tsp sea salt flakes
Mix the flour, water, olive oil and sea salt until you have a shaggy dough. Bring it together with your hands, then knead for five minutes, until smooth and elastic (alternatively, use a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook). Flatten into a disc, wrap in clingfilm or a freezer bag, then leave to rest for 30 minutes.
For the pesto, put the broccoli, garlic, walnuts and cheese in a food processor, and pulse to a thick, green rubble. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt, blitz briefly to make a thick sauce, then set aside.
Roll the pici dough on a floured surface into a rectangle about 40cm x 15cm, then use a dough cutter or knife to cut it into thin, 2-3mm-wide strips. Roll each strip into a long worm, then transfer to a floured tray and repeat until you’ve used up all the dough. You will need to use multiple trays, or layer the pici with greaseproof paper and more flour, because they’ll stick otherwise. If you’re not cooking the pici immediately, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to eat, bring a very large pan of salted water to a boil, drop in the pici and cook for five to six minutes, until cooked through but still with a bit of bite. Drain well, reserving a mugful of the cooking water, then return the pici to the pan and gently stir in the broccoli pesto, adding the pasta water a tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce as needed. Taste and adjust the salt, if necessary, and serve immediately.
Rukmini Iyer is the author of The Roasting Tin series. Her latest book is India Express: Fresh and Delicious Recipes for Every Day, published by Square Peg at £22. To order a copy for £19.36, go to guardianbookshop.com
This article was amended on 14 August 2023 to remove erroneous mentions of chilli from the second recipe’s title and picture caption.10 min25 min42 tbsp olive oil1 tsp chilli flakes2 garlic cloves2 sprigs fresh rosemary1 onion325g baby plum tomatoes2 x 400g tins chickpeasSea salt flakes200g small-leaved spinach300g penneJuice of 1 lemon 45 min30 min6 min4300g strong white bread flour 150ml water1 tbsp olive oil½ tsp sea salt1 head broccoli1 garlic clove 50g walnuts50g grana padano150ml olive oilJuice of 1 lemon1 tsp sea salt flakes