What is spaghetti alla chitarra?
Spaghetti alla chitarra – which translates to ‘guitar spaghetti’ – is so named because it’s made by pushing a sheet of pasta dough onto a wooden pasta cutter lined with guitar-like wire strings. The chitarra cuts the dough into long strands that resemble a thicker, squarer spaghetti – qualities that make this pasta shape an ideal partner for creamy sauces and chunky meat ragú.
Traditionally made from a fresh flour and water dough, spaghetti alla chitarra is a typical shape of the central Italian region of Abruzzo, as well as its neighbour Lazio (where it’s instead known as tonnarelli). In Lazio, you’ll often find this shape paired with cacio e pepe, but in Abruzzo it’s more commonly served alongside the region’s famous lamb ragú.
Abruzzo’s rocky, mountainous interior is prime sheep-rearing country, and you won't go far without spotting a flock of hardy sheep roaming the craggy hillsides. It’s no surprise then, that the Abruzzese love to eat lamb. Arrosticini – skewers of lamb roasted over an open fire – are a big favourite, but this lamb ragú with red peppers is the area’s signature pasta sauce. The sweet peppers cut through the rich lamb perfectly, creating a sauce that’s good all year round.
Spaghetti alla chitarra with lamb ragú
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Calories per serving: 716kcal
- 400g spaghetti alla chitarra, fresh or dried
- 400g lamb shoulder, cut into small cubes
- 2 large red peppers, deseeded and cut into thin strips
- 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tin of peeled plum tomatoes
- 500ml lamb or chicken stock
- 125ml dry white wine
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 50g grated pecorino, to finish
- Put a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the lamb and fry until evenly browned.
- Add the garlic, bay leaves and a pinch of salt, then fry until the garlic is golden (be careful not to let it burn). Pour in the wine and let it reduce by about half.
- Add the tomatoes and red peppers, breaking the tomatoes up with the back of a spoon. Pour in half of the stock, stir and bring to a simmer.
- Cover and reduce the heat to low, then let everything bubble away for 1½ - 2 hours, until the lamb is tender. Add more stock if it starts to look dry.
- Boil a large pan of water. Salt well, add the pasta, stir, then cook until al dente (3-4 minutes for fresh, 2 minutes less than the packet instructions for dried).
- Drain the pasta, reserving some cooking water. Transfer the pasta to your pan of ragú and toss until well coated, adding a splash of pasta water to loosen.
- Divide between bowls, season with salt and pepper and top with a generous handful of pecorino. Buon appetito!