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Chitarra Maccheroni

Chitarra Maccheroni, aka "Maccheroni alla Chitarra" in Italian, might sound like a type of macaroni to English-speakers, but it's actually basically spaghetti that is square when looked at cross-section wise instead of round.

It is formed with a special device called a "Chitarra", named for its vague resemblance to a guitar. It is a wooden frame, that has insertable semi-stiff rod-like wires. The top side of the frame has slots 2 to 3 mm apart for when you are making the spaghetti-like maccheroni; the flip-side of the frame has slots 4 to 6 mm apart for fettucine. You insert the wires into the side you need to use, in this instance, the top side for maccheroni. Pasta cut through it will have square sides.

The dough is made from semolina flour, salt and egg, mixed and kneaded. The dough is rolled out, and cut into rectangles 20 x 60 cm (7 3/4 x 20 inches) , with straight sides. This size is important to take advantage of the size of the chitarra. The rolled out dough is placed on top the wires of the chitarra, then gently pressed through the wires with the aid of a rolling pin. The dough falls through them in strips, ready to use.

The pasta is cooked in boiling salted water, then drained and dressed with a sauce. Popular sauces in Abruzzo for Chitarra Maccheroni include tomato and basil, three-meat sauce (beef, pork and lamb with tomatoes), seafood sauce, or a meatball sauce.

Some pasta machines with rollers have a setting which can achieve the same effect as the old chitarra devices. However, it can take up to four passes of putting the dough through the more modern pasta machines before you finally achieve the shape, so perhaps the older device is still more efficient in its simplicity.

Cooking Tips

For 4 to 6 servings
2 1/2 cups durum wheat (aka semolina) flour
3 eggs

Measure the flour onto a wooden board. Make a well in the middle of it. Break the eggs into this well, sprinkling them with a pinch of salt. Work the egg into the flour, and then knead for 5 minutes, let dough rest for 2 or 3 minutes in the middle, then knead for another 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a towel or with plastic clingfilm and let it rest for 30 minutes (minimum 15 minutes). Then proceed to roll it out and form the pasta.

History Notes

The chitarra for pasta is a relatively recent invention (in Italian terms, anyway), dating from about 1860 in San Martino sulla Marrucina, in Chieti province in Abruzzo. The introduction of tempered steel or iron wire into Italy from Germany made it possible. The device was originally called a "carratore per pasta" ("lu carratur" in Abruzzese), with the word "carratore" coming from the French verb "carrer", to make square. (Abruzzo was under French Bourbon rule at the time.) At the start of the 1900s, the device began to be called a "chitarra."


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