SERVES 4 TO 6
One of my treasured pasta-making implements is the handmade wooden chitarra that belonged to my grandmother, Maria Assunta Saporito. The chitarra is a rectangular form strung with taut, thin wire strings that is used for cutting the classic Abruzzese pasta known as maccheroni alla chitarra, which is a little thicker cut of spaghetti.
Chitarra means guitar and the implement is so called because as pasta sheets are rolled over it, the wires produce melodic sounds. The appropriate sauce to use with this pasta is a lamb ragÃ¹ made with both sweet and hot peppers, which can be made several days ahead to save time. Two cups of sauce is enough to dress one recipe of the pasta. Freeze the remaining sauce for future use.
The chitarra is also handy for making quadrucci, tiny squares of pasta used for soup.
SAUCE (Makes 4 cups)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 small hot red pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 medium-size red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 bay leaf
1 pound ground lamb
2/3 cup dry red wine
1 pound fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 recipe Handmade Pasta dough or 1 pound store-bought brand spaghetti
Freshly grated Pecorino cheese for sprinkling
To make the sauce, mince the garlic, rosemary, and thyme together and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a medium-size sauté pan, add the minced mixture, and cook over medium heat until it begins to soften. Add the peppers and bay leaf and continue to cook for about 1 minute. Add the lamb, browning it slowly over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the wine, and stir with a wooden spoon until most of the wine has evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, removing the cover during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Discard the bay leaf before using the sauce. Remove 2 cups of the sauce, cool, and store for future use. Keep the rest of the sauce warm while the maccheroni is cooking.
Divide the dough into six pieces.
If you have a chitarra, roll each piece of dough out on a lightly floured work surface until it is one third shorter than the length of the chitarra. Place the sheet of dough on top of the chitarra and roll over it forcefully with a rolling pin. The maccheroni will fall beneath the chitarra. Place the maccheroni on clean kitchen towels and continue with the rest of the dough. Alternately, thin the dough using a hand-crank pasta machine to the next-to-the-thinnest setting, then place it over the chitarra and roll over it with a rolling pin. If you do not have a chitarra, cut the pasta using a hand-crank pasta machine or by hand into very narrow strips, between 1/8 and 1/16 of an inch wide.
Cook the fresh maccheroni for about 3 minutes and 3 to 4 minutes for store-bought pasta, until it is al dente. Drain the maccheroni, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the maccheroni to the pot, add the sauce and the reserved cooking water, and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a serving platter. Serve immediately and pass the cheese for sprinkling on top.
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