Lombrichelli alla Viterbese
This is the unintended result of a cumulation of efforts to find out what umbrichelli could be when I saw it on a sagra menu. At first I thought it surely must have something to do with uhm.....umbilical cords (the shape, not the cord itself!) because of the similarities between the two words. MotH cleared up that "false friend" misunderstanding then I reasoned that it would be highly unlikely for a pasta to be named after funicolo ombelicale in any way, shape or form. I hope I'm right.
It was to be my Ricettario della cucina regionale italiana (Touring Club Italiano publication) to solve the mystery, where I thereby learned that lombrichelli owes its name to the friend of all gardeners - the lombrico, or earthworm. Now I get it! Strand pasta goes by a whole lot of names in and around Viterbo - lombrichelli, umbrichelli, strigoli, stratte to name a few - and of which pici drew instant recognition. Foodies will know pici, and who doesn't love eating that wonderfully toothy pasta in a rich, delicious sauce of wild boar in Tuscany?
The tricky thing with italian recipes is that they are written with a minimum of fuss so I'm adding some details to make things clearer. I'm going with the old-fashioned way - only flour, salt and water - and the strength and dexterity of nimble fingers. This is handrolled pasta that is a work of love; don't be attempting this if your middle name is impatient.
Lombrichelli for 2 people
1½ cups (200 grams) farina "00" or all-purpose flour
generous pinch of salt
about ½ cup water
Combine the 3 ingredients to form a smooth dough that is not too soft, neither too firm. Depending on the humidity level of the flour you may need to use less or more water. Knead for about 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic; let rest, covered for 10 minutes.
Pinch off cherry-sized pieces of dough and roll into short logs using the palm of your hand. Proceed to roll and elongate the dough into thick strands, using your palms and eventually fingers to shape the strands to a thickness of about 1/8-inch in diameter. As an example: a piece of dough rolled to the desired thickness yielded a strand that was 27 inches long.
Section into 8 to 12-inch lengths, generously dust with flour and set aside to dry for several hours before cooking. I gathered all of mine in a loose clump as the humidity level is low in my kitchen, but it would be better to keep the strands somewhat separated in humid areas. To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt lightly and cook pasta for 2 minutes max. Initially I went with 3 minutes and they were slightly overdone. Drain and serve with sauce.
Sauce alla viterbese
This tomato-based sauce has many versions so it's up to you if you want to add pork sausage or onions to give it some oomph. I believe that to make it alla viterbese, you'll have to add a bit of hot pepper and have grated pecorino piccante to sprinkle over the finished dish. I went with the simple version: tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper, salt; simmer over a low flame until the flavors develop deep and fabulous. Our garden tomatoes went gangbusters while we were gone and I am up to my ears in heirlooms. If the lombrichelli-making burned you out real bad, there's always premade sauce from the supermarket. Don't sweat it, who's gonna tell?