In a restaurant in London recently I ordered a plate of Spaghetti alla Chitarra – square cut spaghetti that was cooked with some very spicy pork sausage. Square cut spaghetti are especially widespread in Abruzzo, but also in Molise, Lazio and Puglia and obviously can now be found elsewhere in the world.
It reminded me how, about a year previously in one restaurant in Marin County I ordered Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarra with Manila clams, Pacific squid and ‘Nduja with anchovy and breadcrumbs. The Italian square-cut spaghetti were originally rolled over a box strung with guitar strings to create its straight edges.
There is a little bit of Italian regional fusion in this dish: The pasta is from Abruzzo, ‘Nduja from Calabria, and anchovy and breadcrumbs are very Sicilian.
I do not have a recipe for Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarra with Manila clams, Pacific squid, ‘Nduja and anchovy and breadcrumbs, however, I have a pretty good palate and a sharp sense of smell.
I am also able to discern flavours and identify ingredients. I know about cooking methods and this is my interpretation of this recipe. Obviously there may be many differences in the way they would cook this dish, for example in my recipe for simplicity, I have cooked Part 2 and 3 separately and I have then joined the components together. This is not to say that the next time, I would cook this in the same way. I always adapt and experiment with recipes and I am pretty lucky that the majority of times the food tastes OK.
Clearly, this is on my estimation of amounts and is based on my tastes and preferences.
Recipe for 6 people
300 g spaghetti. Use good quality durum wheat spaghetti for example the recommended amount is 100 g per person. I always think that this is far too much- 50g per person is fine in my household but adapt amounts accordingly.
Part 1. Breadcrumbs, anchovies and garlic mixture (often called pangrattato in Italian) is used to sprinkle on top of the dish instead of cheese.
- 1 cup bread crumbs made from 1-2 day old good quality bread
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more if needed
12 anchovies, chopped
- 4-6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
In a fry pan (I use a non stick one) heat the oil. Add garlic and toss them around for about 30 seconds before adding the anchovies. Stir over medium heat until fragrant. Add breadcrumbs and continue to stir them until they are golden and toasted. Remove from the pan when they are ready otherwise they will continue to cook.
- 5-6 tablespoons of’ ‘Nduja per person
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 red onions, sliced thinly
In a frypan sauté the onion in the olive oil. When it is soft and golden add the ‘Nduja and stir gently on low heat until it is dissolved. You may need to use a little water.
- Estimate about 150g of both squid sliced into small pieces and vongole or clams (without their shell) per person – adjust to your tastes. In the restaurant version there were tiny baby squid and octopi used, just as they do in Sicily. This makes me think that in the US they must be allowed to fish for baby fish.
- 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- a little salt
- 2-3 tablespoons of passata
Sauté the fish in the oil until it is golden. Add the passata, stir over medium-low heat until you have the consistency of a thick tomato sauce. You may need to add a little more liquid if necessary.
Complete Part 1.
Prepare the ingredients for Part 1 and 2.
Cook the pasta and while it is cooking make part 1 and part 2 using different saucepans.
To the fish mixture add the ‘Nduja mixture.
Drain the pasta and dress it with the sauce.
Dish it out into separate plates or into a large serving plate, top with the breadcrumb mixture and serve.
I have written about ‘Nduja in an earlier post. See: Nduja, A Spreadable and Spicy Pork Salame From Calabria