In the Abruzzi the main pasta type is called the "chitarra" (‘guitar’). And it is this fundamental instrument, as difficult to use as the rough press used for making the bigoli in the Veneto region, which is the foundation of the pasta dishes of the Abruzzi region. Today, on an international level, the region plays the leading role on the scene of this particular product. Abruzzi is the only Italian territory which has managed to combine the characteristics of the great artisanship of its pasta with the international dimensions of its industries, and this is, in the first place, thanks to three substantial elements: the singular quality of the durum wheat employed, the purity of the water of its springs and the ability of its master pasta-makers.
MACARONI ALLA CHITARRA
Macaroni alla chitarra has ancient origins and also an illustrious ancestor in the famous macaroni "alla mulinara", a legendary dish composed of a single, multi-kilometric string of pasta (fortunately cut before being dressed) prepared in 1340 in honour of the king of Naples, Roberto d’Angị. With the passing of the years, the long string was transformed into the many strings which fall from the "chitarra" under the pressure of the special rolling-pin.
Still today, they remain the protagonists foremost in the gastronomy of the Abruzzi region, so much so that, on the wave of its success, a successful artisan and industrial production has grown up, based around many of the most illustrious laboratories and pasta factories which aspire to saving housewives the hard work involved in the preparation of the pasta. The custom of the home-made macaroni, however, lives on in the families and in the more traditional restaurants where the pasta is made with the house’s own “chitarra”.
The artisans from Pretoro or Secinaro are the ones who have always built the “chitarre”, characteristic frames made out of beechwood with two sets of tightly-strung steel wires; on the one side strung close together for cutting out the "capelli d'angelo" (‘angels’ hairs’), and on the opposite side further apart for those who prefer a pasta which is more similar to fettuccine (a thinner version of tagliatelle). Apart from some exceptions, the pasta dough used is egg pasta.
The customary dressing is a meat sauce made from lamb, but the restaurants in the region propose many different variations.
'Mbusse means “wet”: these are extremely thin fritters made with eggs, milk, grated pecorino cheese, salt, parsley, a sprinkling of white flour and a pinch of nutmeg.
As the name suggests, they come from the French crêpes which, in the Abruzzi, have taken on their own, quite particular character and above all, they are enriched by the flavoursome addition of grated, well matured pecorino cheese. Traditionally, they are home-made but today there are a good number of quality grocery shops which have the equipment to prepare them in an artisan way and sell them ready-made.
At one time, scrippelle were fried in pork fat, today, a few drops of oil and non-stick frying pans solve the problem in a much more healthy way. As soon as they are cooked, the scrippelle are sprinkled with more pecorino cheese, rolled up and put into the dish where they are covered with boiling hot hen’s broth, if the rites and traditions are respected. In another version, they are used to form layers in a timbale, alternating with a sauce made from meat and sausages, and baked in the oven.