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Pici with tarragon pesto, bread crumbs and anchovies

If you think that the only possible Italian pesto is made with basil, you’re wrong. Sienese cuisine is enjoyed for the intense flavors gifted by herbs, such as tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus). In fact, in Siena you can find "pesto senese" made from "dragoncello", the Italian name for tarragon, which is usually picked and combined with pine nuts, olive oil and some butter. Tarragon pesto is usually used to dress pasta, especially pici, the local handmade spaghetti.

Photo credits: Flavia Cori, Tuscany Social Media Team
Vineyards in Castellina in Chianti at Villa Cerna, near Monteriggioni
Vineyards in Castellina in Chianti at Villa Cerna, near Monteriggioni

The tarragon was used by the Arabs and it spread with the Crusades. It is said that this herb was imported into Italy by Charlemagne in 774 and then grown in the garden of the Abbey of St. Antimo, near Montalcino.

Chianti classico vineyards at Villa Cerna (near Monteriggioni)
Chianti classico vineyards at Villa Cerna (near Monteriggioni)

The fresh leaves have a pungent flavor, halfway between salt and pepper, a sort of flavor enhancer, so it’s useful for those who cannot eat salt for health reasons.

Ingredients for Pici with tarragon pesto, bread crumbs and anchovies
Ingredients for Pici with tarragon pesto, bread crumbs and anchovies

For this photo shoot we decided to visit Filippo Saporito and Ombretta Giovannini at La Leggenda dei Frati restaurant: an amazing location surrounded by vineyards, olive groves in the Siena countryside. For the wine pairing, we asked for advice from Chiara Bellacci, hospitality manager at Cecchi. The Leggenda dei Frati is located on the Cecchi estate in Castellina in Chianti, where Chianti Classico DOCG wine and DOP extra-virgin olive oil is made.

Ingredients:

For the anchovies 
- anchovies in salt - vinegar - extra virgin olive oil - parsley For the pici - 600 g of wheat flour 00 - 400 g of durum wheat - 3 eggs - 100 g of extra-virgin olive oil - 280 ml of water For the bread crumbs - Stale bread - Garlic - Thyme - Extra-virgin olive oil
Dragoncello or tarragon fresh leaves
Dragoncello or tarragon fresh leaves
For the pesto - 75 g of tarragon - 225 g extra-virgin olive oil - 40 g pine nuts - 50 g butter - 2 ice cubes

Preparation:

<br />Remove the salt from the anchovies with water and vinegar. Carefully remove the bones and store them in a bowl with olive oil and chopped parsley

Remove the salt from the anchovies with water and vinegar. Carefully remove the bones and store them in a bowl with olive oil and chopped parsley
<br />Mix the pici ingredients and let stand for 1 hour.

Mix the pici ingredients and let stand for 1 hour.
<br />Shape into small cylinders and roll the dough with the palm of your hand and stretch it outward at the same time.

Shape into small cylinders and roll the dough with the palm of your hand and stretch it outward at the same time.
<br />Once you have finished your pici, cover with some semolina, so that it does not stick to the others

Once you have finished your pici, cover with some semolina, so that it does not stick to the others
<br />Pici are ready for cooking.

Pici are ready for cooking.
<br />Now saute the garlic in a cast iron pan with olive oil and thyme, add the bread crumbs and toast lightly.

Now saute the garlic in a cast iron pan with olive oil and thyme, add the bread crumbs and toast lightly.
<br />Prepare your pesto by blending all the ingredients on the list and add two ice cubes to preserve the tarragon green color.-

Prepare your pesto by blending all the ingredients on the list and add two ice cubes to preserve the tarragon green color.-
<br />Now boil some salted water, add your pici and cook them for about 5 minutes (when they rise to the surface, they are ready). Put some pesto in a dish, then add the pici and a couple of anchovy fillets. Finish by sprinkling with bread crumbs.

Now boil some salted water, add your pici and cook them for about 5 minutes (when they rise to the surface, they are ready). Put some pesto in a dish, then add the pici and a couple of anchovy fillets. Finish by sprinkling with bread crumbs.
<br />Enjoy it! This dish goes well with a glass of white wine as Vernaccia di San Gimignano!<br />[Photo by Cecchi wine on Instagram]

Enjoy it! This dish goes well with a glass of white wine as Vernaccia di San Gimignano!
[Photo by Cecchi wine on Instagram]
Thank you Filippo and Ombretta! [Photo credits: Lido Vannucchi]
Thank you Filippo and Ombretta! [Photo credits: Lido Vannucchi]
About Ombretta and Filippo Ombretta Giovannini and Filippo Saporito are husband and wife bu also the main chefs at La Leggenda dei Frati restaurant since 2002. Their cuisine is refined and simple at the same time and their dishes contain only seasonal and local ingredients.