A Traditional Abruzzo Recipe
The Chitarra Teramana con Pallottine is a first-course meal of the Abruzzese culinary tradition, originally from the Teramo province.
Chitarra might sound familiar to you, and it’s actually what you think, a guitar! But for us Abruzzesi (from Abruzzo), the chitarra (guitar) is also a tool with strings, which we use to cut hand-made thin spaghetti with a distinctive square shape.
What makes it unique, isn’t just the guitar, but also called ‘Maccharunare’ in the local dialect = the accompanying sauce. A tomatoes sauce, prepared with “Pallottine” (very-very tiny meatballs), which enhance the taste of the final meal.
Preparing this recipe is a tradition going back to 1600, when it was actually invented. Every Grandma from Teramo province still has her own purely hand-made “Chitarra”. This dish requires some time, but it is worth preparing it and enjoying it with your loved ones. If you want to read more about the origins and uses of the Chitarra also in other parts of Italy, read our dedicated blog post here.
For the Pasta dough:
- 4 medium organic eggs (about 70 gr each)+ possibly 1 duck egg;
- 400 gr flour (type ’00’ or white strong).
For the Pallottine a.k.a meatballs:
- 150gr minced beef (minced twice);
- 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg;
- 1.2 tsp of ground pepper;
- 1 tbsp of parmiggiano cheese;
- 1 egg yolk;
- a pinch of salt.
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 150 gr of beef cubes;
- 150 gr of pork ribs;
- 100 gr of any bones (with little meat);
- 1.5 kg of homemade tomatoes conserve (soon will post a video) /or tin tomatoes /or fresh tomatoes;
- 1 carrot;
- 1 celery stick;
- some salt & pepper;
- 1 medium onion;
- EVO oil;
- water to cover the meat.
- Wooden board (to knead the dough);
- Chitarra (You can order the traditional handmade one from us);
- Manual vegetable crusher (this kind), or immersion if you don’t have one.
In a medium saucepan: add the meat, celery, carrots, onions, some EVO oil, and cover with water. Once all the water has evaporated, stir fry it the content on the same pan for 2 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce and bring it to simmer. Stir it every 15/20 min. After 2 hours, take out the meat & bones and with an immersion blender (a manual one is better) blend all the vegetables and keep cooking on a simmer for at least 1.3 hours.
On a wooden surface/board, add all the flour (keep always some on hand) and make a “fontana” (fountain), a hole in the middle. Add and mix the eggs, and slowly with the fork incorporate the flour. When it becomes hard to mix with the fork, start with your hands.
Knead the dough with power & love until it is smooth. Cover the dough with a kitchen bowl/pot or wrap in kitchen film and let it rest for 30 min. This will allow better extending the dough later.
In the meantime you can start making the “Pallottine”: put the minced meat, egg, grated parmesan, nutmeg, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Mix them well and on your palm shape small balls, about 0.5 cm diameter. In a small saucepan, heat the EVO oil and stir fry the “Pallottine” and set it on the side.
After the water of the meat evaporates, add a little tomato sauce, cook for a few minutes, and keep it on the side.
Now, go back to the dough and knead for 2 minutes and roll the dough until about 2,5 mm thin (height of a penny). Cut the thin dough about the size of the “Chitarra”. Place it on the chitarra, add evenly some flour and start rolling from the bottom, by pressing down the dough and slowly going up. The aim is not to bend it.
Once the dough is down, drag the rolling pin up & down with fast movements. With your music talent within you, play the strings with your fingertips until all the spaghetti is down. If the sheet is too long, don’t cut it, once the spaghetti is down, bend it in the inside and repeat the rolling. With your fingers take the spaghetti in the middle, add some flour, and set it on the side.
*TIP: at the beginning, it will take more time to make the ‘Spaghetti alla Chitarra’. So, from preventing the dough gets too dry, place it inside a plastic bag until you use it.
Once all the squared spaghetti is made, it’s time to cook them. In a small saucepan, re-heat the Pallottine (meatballs) with some tomato sauce. Bring a pot of water to boil, add the salt, the chitarra, and wait until after re-boiling the pasta floats. At this point is ready to be drained, and in a large bowl, add the tomatoes sauce, parmesan, stir it and add more parmesan :D. Serve on the plate, and add the pallottine on top + some more parmesan or pecorino cheese. Buon Appetito (Enjoy your meal)!
Nonna’s Top Secrets:
- Use a wooden board and a wooden rolling pin: this will give a great texture to the pasta and the sauce will stick and get absorbed by the spaghetti more easily.
- Cook the tomatoes sauce for at least 3 hours to have a great taste. To give it a great consistency, also use a vegetable crusher rather than an electric mixer.
- Use organic fresh eggs, with 1 or more duck eggs to the dough.
- When placing a sheet on the Chitarra, start rolling from the beginning, once the dough is in, scratch up and down with the rolling pin and play 😉
- Always add some flour before and rolling the chitarra and when placing the spaghetti on a tray. This is for preventing sticking while cooking.
- While making the spaghetti, place the dough’s sheets inside a plastic bag to prevent the drying.
In Italy, even in Abruzzo is difficult to find a good quality Chitarra frame that doesn’t break after you use them for few times. Especially the cheap ones are like this, which you find online. Since I’ve received many requests, I’ve asked a local artisan to make the chitarra frame & string dedicated only for us, respecting the traditional size of Teramo with narrower strings. The chitarra is completely handmade from scratch using locally sourced beechwood.
To give an extra edge to the chitarra, I’ve asked my friend and ARTIST Martina, to draw and personalise every single pasta guitar (with a pyrograph) so that you can take home a unique piece of Abruzzo with you.
If you want to buy this limited chitarra and contribute to the local development, please order one from us.