Thursday, July 19, 2012

Maccheroni alla Chitarra + giveaway

 Maccheroni alla chitarra is a typical Abruzzese pasta made with an egg dough and an implement called a "chitarra," the same word used for the musical instrument, the guitar. It's a multi-stringed rectangular wooden implement with metal wires across the top. 

Before the invention of the chitarra in the mid-19th century, the same shape was achieved by cutting the pasta with a shoemaker's hammer called a rintrocilo. In some places in Abruzzo, the rintrocilo is still used, although now it's made expressly for pasta, not for shoes, and it looks like a grooved rolling pin. Centuries ago, the rintrocilo was made of iron, but today it's made out of soft wood like beech.

While I was in Santo Stefano di Sessanio, our writing group from Italy, In Other Words, got a first-hand demonstration on making spaghetti alla chitarra by Liliana Coceanig, who along with her husband Carmelio Fulgensi, runs the restaurant and agriturismo "Al Borgo." 

Liliana made the dough with flour and eggs and rolled it out in rectangles, using a short rolling pin, in preparation for running it across the top of the chitarra. The pasta emerges at the bottom in long strands that are square shaped. She also demonstrated how she uses a large rolling pin for cutting tagliatelle or making ravioli. When she finishes rolling it out, the sheet of pasta covers nearly the whole table.

For the tagliatelle, after making the dough, she holds the opposite edges of finished sheet with her hands and rolls each side toward the center. It looks something like a jelly roll with a slit in the middle. She then slices it, lifts it from the center using a long knife as a guide and it unfurls into separate strands.

Liliana favors orange clogs, just like the well-known American chef Mario Batali.

Here are Liliana and her husband Carmelio, each with a different size rolling pin, or mattarello. Their son Silvan, whom I introduced you to on my last blog post featuring lentil salad, is a lentil grower and owner of a new bar in town called "Il Ristoro degli Elfi." 

That night at dinner, we ate Liliana's maccheroni alla chitarra, plus a few other dishes she made, including ravioli with mushroom sauce. 

And gnocchi too. 

The meal started with a platter of homemade affettati (sliced cold meats) and a spicy eggplant and hot pepper spread.

The grilled smoked scamorza was excellent, better than anywhere else I've tried it.

Here's a video of Liliana making pasta for our group. Take a look at a real expert making the dough. 

And check out her technique in rolling out the dough:

Now for the giveaway. Wouldn't you love to own one of those wooden implements to make your own maccheroni alla chitarra at home? I'm giving one away so you can try it yourself.

 All you have to do is leave a comment stating your favorite pasta dish and sauce. Please don't leave your comment in my email - you need to leave it on the blog to be eligible. You don't need to have a blog, but I need some way to contact you if your name is chosen (by random number generator), so leave an email or home address please.

Maccheroni Alla Chitarra

printable recipe here

For the pasta, follow the step-by-step instructions and recipe here:

For the sauce - use your favorite or this one - a tradition sauce made with lamb and peppers from

Italy Dish by Dish:

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 lb lamb, cut into small pieces

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 lbs. peeled tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves (substitute basil if you don't have it)

a pinch of hot pepper flakes

1/2 red pepper, cut into strips

1/2 yellow pepper, cut into strips

1/2 green pepper, cut into strips

salt, pepper

grated pecorino cheese

Saute the onions and garlic in 1 1/2 T. olive oil, then add the lamb and brown. Add the wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, marjoram and hot pepper flakes and lower the heat. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Let the sauce cook while you make the pasta. After the sauce cooks about an hour, saute the peppers in the remaining olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta in salted water, drain and toss with the peppers, then with the lamb ragu. Serve garnished with grated pecorino cheese.

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  1. You can't do that to me, Linda! The entire time I read this blog post I was salivating on my night gown and it's 11 pm and past my bedtime. I can't even go downstairs to get me a glass of milk and a cookie, I want PASTA!

    :) Now, my favorite pasta recipe is bolognese with spaghetti. I love a good, simmered down sauce that has wine in it and tender bits of ground beef. Thanks for the fabulous giveaway!

    Elena V

  2. A gorgeous dish! I've always dreamt of owning one of those wooden implements...

    Very difficult to choose since I like so many pasta dishes/sauces/types, but I'd say that my all time favorite is spaghetti with homemade Bolognese sauce...



  3. che buoni gli spaghetti alla chiatarra , e nache quei ravioli sono irresistibili. molto interessate il video. un abbraccio, buona giornata Daniela.

  4. Simple is best, so I'll go w/ an aglio y olio w/ peperoncini.

  5. Linda, I love all the pics but the video of the pasta rolling is of particular interest. My husband's 98 year old nonna passed away last year. When we clean out her house we found one of those massive rolling pins up in the rafters. This brought back many memories for my father in law as he recalled his mother rolling out the pasta dough. I am now the proud owner of that rolling pin.
    I love all pasta but my favourite is from my dad's region, Tortellini d'erbetta.

  6. I have all kinds of favorites but if I have to choose a favorite it would have to be seafood fettuccini alfredo - chucks of crab and shrimp and bits of lobster mmmmmmm

  7. the best is homemade parpadelle with a nice thick bolognese sauce to coat the pasta. uummmmmm.

  8. That scamorza is one of my hands down favorite things to eat,I would have to say I love a good bucatini with a roast pork and creamy gorgonzola sauce with lots of crunchy roasted walnuts and toasted breadcrumbs on top.It is SUPER rich and egually as delicious.Oh my how I would truly love to make pasta with an authentic chitarra,lots of memories to be made with

  9. I would love to own una chitarra! I've fallen for tortelli lucchese-love the meat filling and the meat sauce. I've made it at home but would rather be eating it in Lucca!

  10. After watching the video I feel guilty using my food processor to make my pasta dough! I love her rolling technique too, she's a master!
    Asking what my favorite pasta dish is, is like asking me to choose which of my kids I like better, Hmmm, lets see, in the summer I like angel hair with any veggies, in the fall I like pillowy gnocchi, preferably, butternut squash or ricotta, holidays I like ravioli, and of course I can't resist a red sauce that has been simmering all day with sausage, meatballs, and neckbones, and I'll take any pasta with that. I better stop, I told you I couldn't choose!

  11. Hi Linda, What a FAB post. I love all your info. Complimenti! Abruzzese cuisine seems to be getting more and more ink these day. I have written about la chitarra a few times, and more and readers are coming to view the posts. That can only be good for Abruzzo! And "rolling your own" is THE way to go. It really is different - the texture of the wood counter and the wooden rolling pin creates a most remarkable surface on the pasta. And really one is more stretching the dough than rolling it. My, but I remember learning at the hands of my grandmother, and it was just magic as that lump of dough stretched to cover her entire kitchen table.

    I have a chitarra of my own, so please, should I come out the winner, select another. Again, congratulations on a wonderful post.

  12. I have kids so Spaghetti alla Bolognese is a must at our house. Thank you for all the great "how to" pasta videos and recipes. I love them all!

  13. You left me enchanted by pasta. Again. And you really cannot expect me to pick a favorite pasta!!!! It's like having a favorite child! Too many delectables to choose from and they all have their place.

  14. spaghetti or linguine with meatballs and chard from the yard has been this summers favorite. garlic and oil is also a standard for a quick lunch.

    Hugh in Dallas

  15. What a coincidence. I was just talking about the guitar string spaghetti to a friend a few days ago. I think my favorite pasta is still regular old thin spaghetti with a thick and chunky marinara and lots of red pepper flakes. No meat necessary!

  16. I love this post! The pasta looks incredible. Thanks for the giveaway chance. My favorite pasta is tagliatelle with a blush type sauce but then again I might choose something else on a different day.

  17. Linda, I forgot to add that I have a couple of ritroncili - they are so very old, and fashioned from a darker wood - perhaps cherry. I am not sure what the wood is, but they are so old and have such a time worn patina. Real beauties, they are. Oh, I can't tell you how pleased I am to read of another internet friend who uses a chitarra. We need to form a club - and call it perhaps Le donne della chitarra!

  18. Linda, This is a mouth watering post!! I am quite sure that I was Italian in a previous life. All time favorite dish would have to be pasta ala the garlicky clam sauce.
    ♥, Susan

  19. I love, love, LOVE pasta in any form with any sauce...however, I have to say right now I am especially loving little orecchietti with a fresh, garden grown tomato and basil sauce.

  20. Those videos are wonderful and her pasta looks so yummy!

    My favorite dish is angel-hair pasta with puttanesca sauce.


  21. Linda, I cannot tell you how much I love pasta. I so appreciate how you educate we Non-Italians on all the different ways that pasta is made. It's not just about spaghetti! Come Fall, I'm going to dig out my pasta maker and try several of your recipes that I have bookmarked. Gnocchi tops my list of things I want to make, for my first time.

  22. Nice to visit your site, Linda. Now I am hungry for my favorite, chicken ravioli with tomato sauce. My grandmother made that for us, and with us when we were kids and it is still my favorite.

  23. It's so hard to choose just one! I'm a BIG fan of gnocchi with either bolognese or gorgonzola cream sauce. Yum!

  24. I love gnocchi with tomato gravy........yummmm

  25. johann@roadrunner.comJuly 19, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    I so look forward to all your recipes and photos. My favorite pasta is homemade ricotta filled ravoli with a Sunday meat sauce and some freshly grated pecorino romano.
    You just can't go wrong.

  26. I love the lasagna with just cheese, ricotta and mozzarella, no meat and that is just how I make it.
    Linda Cacaci

  27. I love amatriciana
    My grandmother. from Abruzzo, had a chitarra in Donora PA. I loved watching her roll the dough over the "strings".
    You have to love America when you have relatives who came here with LITERALLY NOTHING (in my grandfather's case $21.oo and raised children who became doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and the early 20th century. HARD WORK and SACRIFICE, but they DID IT.

  28. In the summer I love lots of fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden over spaghetti with olive oil, lemon, and shaved parmesan. In the winter, a hearty mushroom ravioli with butter, cream, and sage.
    Thanks for a wonderful blog!

  29. i like cavatelli with broccoli, with a light garlic and parmesan sauce

  30. Hi Linda!! Great picures as usual..

    My favorite pasta is probably the most simple...just some fresh garden tomatoes sauteed with some garlic and olive oil and some fresh basil..yum...served over spaghetti...I could eat this forever!! (With a great bagette, of course!!)


  31. Beautiful photographs and what an interesting looking little lady. My favorite pasta has always been something we stumbled on on Fiji. We were on Turtle Island and an Italian countess was also on holiday. One evening she wanted to make us all dinner and all she found in the pantry that would work for her were olives and olive oil. She made this wonderful dish with the above adding a few hot pepper flakes and we topped it with grated cheese. It has long remained our favorite along with the memories.

  32. I love making and eating all types of pasta. Hard to say what my favorite is. Last night it was linguini with a simple marinara sauce with lots of fresh basil. Ricotta gnocchi, ravioili, white clam sauce, I could go in forever. And nothing beats the aroma in my house when making a long cook gravy with sausage, braciole, meatballs, etc. yum!

  33. So wonderful of you to host this giveaway. I have been thinking of purchasing a chitarra since I cut my pasta using a ruler and pizza wheel and so time consumming.

    My favorite would have to be Linguine con Vongole.

  34. My favorite pasta dish is the Pugliese orrichette with broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes.

    My grandparents were from a little town Roseto Valfortore in the Province of Foggia in Puglia and this was a staple of our household. My grandmother made her own orrichette. Sometimes she would add sausage to the dish and chick peas.

    I made this dish just a couple of nights ago, minus the sausage but added the chick peas. Delish!! Brings back such wonderful memories!!

  35. I am in awe of Liliana's dough rolling technique! She is a dynamo! The dinner you had at her home looked exquisite--all my favorites especially the grilled smoked scamorza...oh my!

    I love all pastas and sauces, Linda so I don't know how I would narrow it down to only one selection. Thinking it over I would have to say one of my specialties is home made pappardelle with a coniglio (rabbit)ragu. I make it for special occasions.

  36. I have that instrument with me in Ireland, cannot do spaghetti in a differen way! :D


  37. I know the post is about pasta alla chitarra--which I love--but what really caught my eye was that grilled scamorza! It looks incredible…

  38. My favorite is ravioli and Laura S's walnut sauce.

  39. My favorite is ravioli and Laura S's walnut sauce.

  40. My favorite pasta dish is Cacio e Pepe, ever since we spent time in Rome I cannot get enough of it! Would love to have one of these so I could make it from scratch at home!

  41. Ho "la chitarra " abruzzese, adesso devo proprio usarla!Buon weekend Linda!

  42. My favorite right now is linguine with clam sauce...but I love
    All pasta...i have never met pasta i did not love...
    I would love to try making pasta with this wonderful implement! What fun!

  43. i like Spaghetti Bolognese


  44. Linda, you always go on the best food tours! I'd love the chitarra and I would make spaghetti with tomato and basil's summer after all!

  45. Hi Linda- the pasta meal looks heavenly.
    What a neat giveaway.
    My old time favorite, linguini with white clam sauce.

  46. How fortunate of you Linda, that you were able to experience this traditional Italian method of rolling and making pasta shapes. I have heard of this 'guitar' type pasta cutter, but have never seen one in reality. I would love to have one some day!

    My favorite pasta is Tortellini en Brodo that my family prepares for every holiday!


  47. Linda I so look forward to your posts, they always inspire me and make me so hungry ! It is very hard to choose a favorite pasta, I love so many. The one I turn to most is Spaghetti al frutti di mare, but it has to have home made pasta ! Wish I were there learning all the wonder pasta technique.

    Susan -

  48. Wow! this is sooo cool! I would love to win this. A few months ago I made my very first Bolognese sauce. I won Delicious Memories.. Recipes and stories from the Chef Boyaredee Family..... the recipe came from that cookbook. It was delicious.

  49. Hey Linda I would love the chitarra. I love all your emails and I never miss one. I love your photos and recipes. I've even made some for my family. They love them all. Some of my favorites are the ones you post during Easter time. I work for a ministry that has a website that I manage. You can send me the notice when I win it (Lol) at
    my name is Carmen Kunhardt
    God bless you!
    You do great work! Thanks for all the posts! Chow ~Carmen

  50. so many to choose from but my absolute favorite is spaghetti alla puttanesca, love the spicy!