Abruzzo’s northern Teramo province is famous for its delicious ‘Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Polpettine’ adored by young and old, who hungrily twiddle up the succulent, weeny meatballs between the long, squared-shaped spaghetti.
Its ragu is light rather than a heavy meat one, that points the region’s alignment to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies as well as cucina povera whose ingredients carefully treasure what we so often wastefully discard today. The job of this slow cooked marriage of passata, bones, carrot and celery it not to just to plump up the firm chitarra, but to fragrantly smoother its juicy beef polpettine (meatballs). This is the only time I’ve been served meatballs and pasta together in Italy, that menu favourite of ‘Italian’ restaurants outside the country is an Italian American invention.
AnnaMaria from the B&B Panfilo Farmhouse whose Aromatic Tomato Pasta Sauce we loved so much when we stayed there a couple of years ago invited me back for a Teramana cooking session, and these are her tips to perfect spaghetti alla chitarra con polpettine. Afterwards we took advantage of our climate emergency by sitting outside for lunch despite it being the beginning of February. We shared the dish with a local shepherd who passes through her property daily whilst walking his girls, timeless moments that bring all parts of the region’s history back to the here and now.
Tips for Perfect Teramana ‘Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Polpettine’
- Before rolling your hazelnut-size meatballs marinate the minced beef for an hour with a really good glug of extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Flash fry your mini meatballs for just 45 seconds and leave them to rest if you want them to remain juicy and give a complementary uomi flavour to the light ragu.
- Don’t fry your bones, carrot and celery stalk in oil, instead add 3 mugs of water, a good pinch of salt and pepper and allow the bones absorb and soften with the water before adding your bottles of passata so that you don’t lose all their valuable stock.
- Don’t skimp on the passata, this type of pasta will absorb your ragù!
- Invest in the very best organic coarsely ground flour that you can afford. Good flour shouldn’t make you feel bloated and tired after eating it it should also have its very own flavour too that complements your sauce and your meatballs. AnnaMaria used an organic wholewheat flour by the amazing Castellalto mill, Mulino Di Giovannantonio (DGL Agricoltura) that was a mixture of low gluten hardy ancient wheats grown in Abruzzo, if you get a chance go and stock up!
- Save valuable time by cutting your pasta using a chitarra cutter on your pasta machine. Not everyone has time to sit rolling pasta through a chitarra which is quite a ‘modern’ 19th century invention.