|The Tomb of the Leopards at Tarquinia, dating to the 5th century BCE|
A banquet is depicted in the Tomb of the Leopards at the Etruscan necropolis at Tarquinia. It appears that a servant is bringing to the table a bowl containing a long, irregular sort of pasta which has been identified as an early version of pici.
Honestly, I have peered at the image above but cannot make out this bowl of pici...
|the slightly rough texture of handmade pici is visible here|
|pici made with egg look prettier but the eggless sort is the norm|
|aglione tends to be a bigger variety of garlic, yellowish in colour and more delicately flavoured|
But we have been enlightened. When our market greengrocer asked whether we preferred aglione to aglio, all was explained at last.
Aglione is actually a special variety of garlic, Allium ampeloprasum var. Holmense, originating in
Val di Chiana and Val d'Orcia in southern Tuscany. It has a good, round flavour, which is more delicate than normal garlic, and is prized for being particularly digestible.
The heads of this variety of garlic tend to be larger than regular garlic and the cloves are creamy-yellow in colour.
|Allium ampeloprasum var. Holmense|
Aglione can cost four times as much as regular garlic, also because it is a rarer variety.
It also has the property of softening and dissolving when cooked so that you can simply crush entire cloves in the pot with a wooden spoon.
To make a simple aglione sauce, cook some aglione (a clove per person) in olive oil and half a glass of white wine in a covered pan until the garlic is soft and you can squash it with a wooden spoon (about 15 minutes); add fresh or bottled pelati tomatoes, some salt to taste and simmer until reduced (about 20 minutes).
That is all. Add to your pici and enjoy.