The Italian word chitarra means guitar. So, what is it doing here on Culinary Lore? You certainly cannot cut pasta with a guitar.
Well, when you see a chitarra pasta cutter, you’ll get the idea. It is a wooden frame (sometimes metal) with wires stretched across it. The wires are used to cut pasta dough into thin square strips called maccheroni alla chitarra, spaghetti alla chitarra or pasta alla chitarra abruzzese. These cutters are especially used in the region of Abruzzo, in central Italy. They originated in the early 1800’s in the province of Chieti.
Recommended: Eppicotispai Chitarra Pasta Cutter
In Abruzzo, pasta alla chitarra is typically used in a mutton ragu, but the pasta is also used with other ragus of beef, pork, rabbit, mushrooms, etc.
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Usually made of birch-wood, chitarras are wooden frames around 16 inches long by 8 inches wide. Today, metal chitarras are also available. The frames are two-sided, with the wires strung across the frame are placed 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch apart, for making differently sized pasta.
They couldn’t be easier to use. You just lay a sheet of pasta dough on top of the wires and use a small rolling-pin to press the dough into the wires. The wires cut the dough into a kind of square spaghetti and the strips are caught by the tray underneath. It is important to use flour to help keep the dough from sticking to the wires.
Similar to a guitar, when the strings become loose, you can tighten them with the screws on either side of the frame. The screws move the frame out and since the wires are stretched over the frame, similar to a guitar bridge, this movement tightens the wires.
Below is a video showing how to use a chitarra pasta cutter.
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2. Green, Aliza. Making Artisan Pasta How to Make a World of Handmade Noodles, Stuffed Pasta, Dumplings, and More. Beverly, Mass., 2012.