Pasta alla Chitarra2019-01-07T01:24:44+00:00

Project Description

Pasta alla Chitarra

The chitarra (guitar) is a beautiful tool from my dad’s region of Italy that makes long, gorgeous strands of deliciously silky pasta. One side makes spaghetti and the other side makes the slightly wider tagliatelle (also known as fettuccine). My mom bought this chitarra right in my dad’s hometown of Montenero di Bisaccia when she and I went to Italy together for the first time. I was just a kid, but I couldn’t wait to try it. My mom and I used it together several times to surprise my dad with the wonderful square sided spaghetti (or tagliatelle shown here) this tool produces.  I always knew someday this treasure would be passed down to me. As an adult I didn’t really use it very often. I was always afraid to break a string.  This year I decided it was time to pick up the guitar again! Making fresh pasta is such a unique experience every time. You will never use exactly the same amount of flour each time. You might not even use the same type of flour each time. The dough will rarely turn out exactly the same with each attempt. There are too many variables that affect the outcome…too many to list. The best approach is to practice and learn to get a feel for the dough. Every step of pasta making from combining the flour to kneading the dough to boiling the strands in water comes down to feel. When you add dough to liquid, in this case eggs there will come a point where the liquid simply will not take any more flour. Paying attention to this is much more useful than being committed to how many cups are listed in the recipe. The recipe is truly only a guideline especially with fresh pasta. Also, there is no exact cook time with fresh pasta and you should be suspicious if someone tries to tell you that there is. Between the weather and the various sizes of eggs, the timing is never exact. That doesn’t even take into consideration personal preference. I like my pasta al dente or with a bite. Even with fresh handmade pasta, I want to feel the bite in the texture. It’s best to pay attention to the feel of the dough right down to tasting it out of the pot of boiling water to see if it meets your personal approval. Just be careful and use kitchen tongs to get a sample strand.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 400 grams of flour  or 3 – 3 1/2 cups*  – we used half double zero and half semola
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

*Note: Although measuring cups are the most commonly used tool in the US, they are actually an unreliable means of measuring most thing including flour. The amount of air that gets into the scoop will determine how tightly or loosely the flour is packed thus rendering a different amount of flour each time. This is why it’s important to pay attention to the feel of the dough and use more or less flour than a recipe suggests based on the individual experience. This is also why we use a kitchen scale, but that is absolutely not a requirement. It’s fun though…

Instructions

  1. Lightly flour your work surface so that it is ready when it comes time to knead your dough
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs*
  3. Add the salt and mix
  4. Gradually add flour about 1/2 cup at a time and mix together with a wooden sppon – you’ll switch to your hands soon
  5. Continue adding flour and when you can no longer turn the wooden spoon, mix with your hands until eggs are incorporated into the flour
  6. The amount of flour needed will always vary slightly so add it a little at a time paying attention to the consistency
  7. Before kneading the dough wash your hands and dry them completely so that no flour remnants get into the dough
  8. Turn dough out onto your floured work surface and use your hands to incorporate the flour into the dough so it is not sticky and forms a ball
  9. Knead the dough by pushing the dough down and forward with the heel of your hand
  10. Turn the dough slightly and fold it in half onto itself using the heel of your hand in a forward motion
  11. Continue turning the dough slightly and using the heel of your hand to fold the dough in half with a forward motion
  12. Knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic
  13. Wrap the dough in plastic and cover with a bowl or towel and allow to rest for 30-60 minutes at room temperature
  14. After the dough has rested, unwrap your dough and cut it into 4 equal pieces
  15. Lightly flour your work surface and begin with the first section of dough
  16. Flatten the dough slightly with your hand so that it begins to form a rectangle
  17. With your rolling pin flatten the dough until it is about 1/8 of an inch thick
  18. Turn the dough as needed while you roll it so that it is as close to a rectangle as possible
  19. Once complete allow the sheet of dough to rest for a minute or two so that it is dry enough to go through the chitarra
  20. Flour the chitarra before using so that the pasta will not stick once it goes through the strings
  21. Place your sheet of pasta on top of the strings 0 the side with the strings set closer to each other will produce spaghetti and the other side will produce tagliatelle
  22. Begin to roll the sheet of pasta with your rolling pin back and forth until the dough starts to break through the strings
  23. Gently run your fingers over the pasta and the strings until the strands of pasta fall through landing on the bottom of the chitarra
  24. Remove the strands and place on a floured cookie sheet, cover with a clean white dish towel
  25. Repeat this process until you have use all of the dough
  26. You can cook immediately or store in the refrigerator covered in plastic and a towel or freeze in plastic freezer bags
  27. To cook, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then drop pasta in and turn
  28. Turning the pasta periodically and allow it to cook about 3 minutes – cook time will vary depending on thickness and personal preference
  29. Drain pasta or remove with tongs and dress immediately with sauce and serve – we suggest this Tomato Sauce with Sausage

*Note: You can also form a well with the flour on your work surface and then add the eggs and beat with a fork slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs until the dough begins to form. If you’re a beginner or simply do not want to worry about the eggs leaking out of the flour well, use a bowl. I use either method depending on my mood that day.

Check out the post about this recipe, Pasta alla Chitarra – Dad’s Favorite.