In Cortona the food reflects the tradition of Tuscany. In almost every restaurant you will find Fiorentina steak (especially Chianina meat!), pici and pasta with different meat sauces, chicken liver crostini (also know as “crostino nero”) and many other Tuscan specialties. But if I had to mention one dish that is really from Cortona I’d have no doubts: it is “pasta al fumo”.
Pasta al fumo and Tonino Restaurant in Cortona
“Pasta al fumo” literally means smoked pasta. Smoked because this pasta dish (with a tomato cream sauce) gets its flavor from smoked bacon. You can find “pasta al fumo” in almost every restaurant’s menu of Cortona within the walls. Sometimes it is made with pici or with spaghetti, but it is not uncommon to find also “penne al fumo”.
It is a recipe invented in the 70s by the Cortonese Andriana Biagianti Accordi, chef and owner (with her husband, Ivan Accordi) of Tonino Restaurant in Cortona, very famous at that time.
In those years people in Cortona started to dine out more often and Tonino was the first “fancy” restaurant in town. It was especially famous for its huge antipasto (made of 54 courses!) and throughout the years it catered all over Italy for important VIP events hosting Italian presidents, Pope John Paul II, Ronald Regan and many others.
The story of pasta al fumo
The story of how “pasta al fumo” was born says that during the winter between 1973 and 1974 Adriana’s family went on a trip to Val d’Aosta, in the north of Italy, where they had just bought a house. They also brought with them the restaurant’s young helper, Santi Cenci, who is now the owner and chef of Trattoria Toscana in Cortona together with his daughter and family. (here he tells the story and the original recipe, in Italian)
During their stay in Val D’Aosta, one day they went shopping to cook for the family and found smoked bacon, a specialty of that area which you couldn’t find at that time in Cortona. Adriana had the intuition to mince the bacon and use it in a sauce with cream, another ingredient that was growing popular in those years. They came back to Cortona and worked to perfect this new, “exotic” recipe. After a few trials, “pasta al fumo” (originally made with spaghetti) rapidly became a cult dish of Tonino Restaurant, now famous all over Cortona as a typical, very local dish with a unique history!
Pasta al fumo recipe: a new collaboration with baileyskitchenitalia
I’m starting today a new collaboration with my friend and colleague Bailey. She is from Georgia, USA, but living in Cortona, where she came a few years ago to study with UGA, found love and never left! She loves cooking and just opened an Instagram account where she shares her favorite food & drinks creations and recipes that she makes here in Cortona. Here is the profile to follow her: https://www.instagram.com/baileyskitchenitalia/
It goes without saying that “pasta al fumo” is one of her favorite dishes here in Cortona! Bailey has cooked for us and shares here what we can call “Bailey’s version of pici al fumo”.
Try the recipe at home and pretend to be here in Cortona with us!
Pici al fumo recipe by Bailey
- 500 grams (4 cups) flour (I used 350g (2 3/4 cups) all-purpose and 150g (1 1/4 cups) semola flour)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 250 ml (little over 1 cup) room temp water
Mix in a bowl the flour and salt. and stream in the water. Mix with a fork until a shaggy dough forms.
Turn onto a floured work surface and knead for about 15 minutes until smooth and elastic. Let dough rest for 30 minutes.
Roll dough out into a rectangle so it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Then cut into 1/2 inch wide strips. Roll out each strip until it’s round and about 1/4 inch thick and cut to be about 12 inches long, depending on how long you like your pasta! Doesn’t need to be perfect! Let rest on slightly floured sheet pans.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 cup (you can do more or less depending on your preference) of smoked bacon (smoked pancetta) cut in tiny pieces or pulse it a few times in the food processor
- chopped tomatoes (about 1 cup)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
Add olive oil into a pan along with garlic cloves and rosemary. Let it get hot then add in the smoked pancetta. Once bacon gets a little crisp and has some color, (some people at this step add a splash of vodka-optional) add some roughly chopped tomatoes and let cook for about 5-10 minutes to break the tomatoes down some. Next, add tomato paste and stir together, then add heavy cream. Cook for about 3 minutes more to get everything combined then turn off the heat. (You can take the rosemary out at this step)
Boil the pici in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes, until al dente. Reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water and then add the pici to the sauce along with the pasta water. Stir until nice and creamy and beautiful then plate and enjoy!