I love this recipe because it really shows off the amazing versatility of vegetables. The rich ragù is deeply flavorful partially in thanks to a variety of herbs and seasonings, but the real credit goes to the meaty mushrooms, root veggies and charred aromatics.
Swap options: If you're short on time, use vegetable stock instead of making mushroom stock and use store-bought fresh pasta instead of preparing the pici from scratch.
- 1½ pounds cremini mushrooms
- 3 cups water
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 celery roots, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 3 pounds cremini mushrooms
- 2 onions, quartered
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1½ teaspoons juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 3 sprigs marjoram
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 head garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1¼ cups warm water
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating
- Semolina four, for dusting
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
For the mushroom stock:
1. Using a food processor, finely grind the mushrooms.
2. In medium stockpot, combine the ground mushrooms with the water. Cover and gently heat the mixture over low heat until just simmering, allowing the mushrooms to give off their liquid, about 45 minutes. Add the thyme and remove from the pot from the heat; set aside to steep for 15 minutes.
3. Strain and reserve the stock.
For the vegetables:
1. Heat a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add enough oil to just cover the surface of the skillet.
2. Working in batches, add carrots, celery root, mushrooms and onions and cook until they are nicely charred on the outside but still raw in the center.
3. Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl. Set aside.
For the marinade:
In a large deep skillet over medium-low heat, stir the peppercorns, juniper berries and cloves until they are toasted and fragrant. Add the tomato paste to the spice mixture and stir until the paste becomes a brick red color. Add the wine and stir to loosen the mixture from the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by about half, for about 8 minutes. Add the thyme, marjoram, rosemary and garlic; simmer 1 minute. Pour the wine mixture over the vegetables and set aside to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the ragù:
1. Add the vegetables to the work bowl of a food processor and pulse to grind.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large wide shallow pot over medium heat. Add the ground vegetable mixture and cook gently for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables soften, but still have a slight bite in texture.
3. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the mushroom stock with the cornstarch to blend. In large saucepan, bring the remaining mushroom stock to a boil. Whisk in enough of the cornstarch mixture to form a saucy consistency (you may not need all of the cornstarch mixture).
4. Gradually add a small amount of the stock to the ragù to form the desired consistency that is just a little wet, but not too saucy. You may not need all of the stock. Season ragù with salt.
For the pici:
Mound the flour on a clean work surface and make a well in the center. Add the salt, water and oil to the center. Using your finger or a fork, work the flour into the liquid from the sides to form a dough. Knead the dough for about 15 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a bowl and lightly coat with oil, cover with a cloth, and let rest for 30 minutes. Flatten the dough and cut it into thin strips. Roll one strip at a time with the palms of your hands into long round strands, forming strands that are thicker than spaghetti, and about 6 inches long and 3 millimeters wide. Sprinkle with semolina to prevent from sticking. Cover and refrigerate.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat, stirring often, for about 2 minutes, or until al dente. Using tongs, lift the pasta from the water and fold it into the ragù.
Transfer the pasta and ragù mixture to plates. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated pecorino cheese. Serve immediately.