In my ongoing exploration of Umbrian cuisine I decided to make this simple peasant dish that is traditional to Umbria consisting of pasta made with flour and water topped with a quick tomato sauce. It may not sound too exciting described that way, but I assure you it is delicious if the proper ingredients are used. There are two types of pasta that are considered indigenous to Umbria, including strangozzi which are long flat strands of pasta made with flour and eggs, and umbricelli, a similar pasta made just with flour and water.
To complicate matters, there is also a short twisted pasta that is called umbricelli, often found manufactured in a dry form that can be bought both in Italy and abroad. On our last trip to Umbria we also came across pasta made simply with flour and water that was given the name strangozzi rather than umbricelli. We were told by a nonna who has made this pasta for years that strangozzi was made with egg only if topped with a mushroom, truffle or meat sauce, but when topped with a simple tomato sauce it is made with just flour and water. Whatever you want to call it, this pasta is quick and easy to make although is best made just being you are ready to cook it as once it dries it is never as tender as when first made.
On our last trip to Umbria we spent our last day in Spoleto, stopping for lunch at Osteria del Matto which was a unique and delicious experience. After bringing us one dish after another (there was no menu just whatever “Mamma” wants to prepare and send out to you), we were asked if we would like a nice plate of pasta. We replied of course, even though we were already full as we did not want to offend this sweet Nonna, and after she made a trip downstairs to get a tray of fresh pasta she made that morning she quickly put together this dish and sent out some to all of us sitting in the dining room. Of course, just as expected, it was delicious and quite similar to a dish my Mother-In-Law who is from Lazio has made many times for us in her kitchen.
The sauce for this pasta is a simple tomato one. You can use fresh tomatoes and create your own sauce, or follow my favorite easy recipe below. Traditionally grated pecorino cheese is used for this pasta, but grated parmesan works just as well.
Cutting The Pasta Into Strands
Deborah Mele 2011
Umbricelli alla Spoletina
A traditional Umbrian pasta dish made with a spicy tomato sauce.
- 3 Cups All-purpose Flour (Plus More For Rolling)
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Cup Water At Room Temperature
For The Sauce:
- 1 (28 Ounce) Can Imported Diced Italian Tomatoes (Or 1 26.5 Ounce Box Pomi Brand Chopped Tomatoes)
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Decrease To 1 Tablespoon If Wanting To Make A Lower Fat Version)
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Basil
- Dash Of Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
- Grated Pecorino or Parmesan Cheese
- Place the flour and salt in a bowl and pour in the water, and mix everything together with a fork until you have created a dough that holds together.
- Place the dough on a firm surface and knead by hand until the dough is smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Using additional flour as needed, roll out the dough using a heavy rolling pin until you have a rectangle shape about 1/8th of an inch thick.
- Lightly flour the top of the dough, and roll it into a tube as shown in the photo below.
- Using a sharp knife, cut slices about 1/4 inch thick.
- Undo the rolled dough strips and toss them in a little flour.
- Place the cut dough strands on a clean, dry towel until you are ready to cook them.
- For the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, and add the garlic.
- As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, but before it takes on color, add the tomatoes.
- Turn the heat to high, and as soon as the sauce begins to bubble, turn back down to low heat.
- Season with salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes if you are using them, and add the basil.
- Simmer just 5 to 10 minutes and then remove from the heat.
- While the sauce is simmering, heat a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Cook the pasta 2 to 3 minutes until it is al dente.
- Drain, and toss with a large scoop of sauce.
- Divide the pasta into individual bowls and add an additional spoonful of sauce.
- Serve hot, passing the grated cheese at the table.