Once upon a time, a chitarra--an Italian instrument somewhat like a guitar--did double duty and was also used in the kitchen. Seriously. Cooks used the multistringed piece to make music and
cut fresh pasta. Now you can find chitarras exclusively for pasta making, but the rustic necessity of grabbing a musical instrument to help make dinner still lingers in the texture of this toothsome pasta.
Fake it 'Till You Make It:
If you can't find chitarra pasta, or don't feel like making it yourself, spaghettini works fine as well.
For a fine pasta like this one, I wanted to make a sauce that played up its texture and didn't overwhelm it. It's so easy for finer pastas to get lost in the sauce, so I kept it on the lighter side, just barely coating each bite.
Chile adds heat, bacon adds...bacon, and the bread crumbs and pine nuts add a lovely crunch to the whole thing. Enjoy!
||If you want to be an ambitious chef, try making fresh pasta chitarra with your own chitarra slicer. Chitarra Pasta Cutter, $39, Kitchen Arts
1/2 cup roughly chopped, thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 fresh red chile (cayenne or red serrano)
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup arrabbiata pasta sauce (recipe below)
8 ounces dried chitarra pasta, or spaghettini (reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid)
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
||for the sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried, crushed red pepper
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon tomato paste1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
1. Heat oil over medium heat, add garlic and crushed red pepper, and cook for 30 seconds.
2. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and wine. Cook 5 minutes, add basil, and cook another 5 minutes.
3. Using an immersion blender (a regular blender is fine too), puree the sauce, then season to taste.
4. Use ½ cup for the recipe below and store the remainder in an air-tight container or freeze for another time.
For the pasta:
1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until tender, yet al dente.
3. Meanwhile, in a 12 to 14-inch sautée pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until barely crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Add the olive oil, chile, and garlic to the pan and slowly sweat until the garlic is golden, about 3 minutes.
5. Add the pine nuts, parsley, arrabiata pasta sauce, and 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, and bring to a simmer.
6. Season with a little salt and pepper.
7. Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the tomato mixture.
8. Toss over high heat for 1 minute.
9. Scoop the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with bread crumbs and parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve immediately.
To increase your own culinary prowess, head to The Kitchy Kitchen
Photographs: Claire Thomas