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 popular in Abruzzo, but also in Molise, Lazio and Puglia and obviously can now be found elsewhere in the world.
I had also found them on a menu in Marin County a year before London. There I ordered Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarra with Manila clams, Pacific squid and ‘Nduja with anchovy and breadcrumbs (this is how it was written on the menu).
There is a little bit of Italian regional fusion in this dish:
The pasta is from Rustichella d’Abruzzo – a pasta manufacturer in the central region of Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast, famous because it uses traditional methods for quality pasta production and quality ingredients. For example the durum wheat is from growers in Italy as well as Canada and Australia. The Italian square-cut spaghetti was originally shaped by the dough being rolled over a box strung with guitar strings (chitarra= guitar) to create the straight edges. Now of course, it is all machine made.
‘Nduja is a spicy, soft spreadable salame from Calabria.
The use of toasted breadcrumbs as a topping for pasta is both Calabrese and Sicilian.
I do not have a recipe from the restaurant 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. This is my interpretation of this recipe.
The estimation of amounts and is based on my tastes and preferences.
Recipe for 6 people
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
6 anchovies, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
In a fry pan (I use a non stick one) heat the oil, add the anchovies and toss them around for about 30 seconds before adding the garlic. Stir over medium heat until fragrant – the anchovies will break up and ‘dissolve’ into the oil.
Add breadcrumbs and continue to stir them until the crumbs are golden and toasted. Remove from the pan when they are ready otherwise they will continue to cook; set aside until you wish to use them.
700g of squid sliced into rings (optional – add 200g of vongole or clams without their shell per person )– adjust to your tastes.
150g of’ ‘Nduja (add more if you like more spice)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 red onions, sliced thinly
2-3 tablespoons of passata
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. Add the squid and toss it around till it is transparent and cooked (I do not cook squid for long). Add the passata half way through cooking, 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.
400 g spaghetti. Use good quality durum wheat spaghetti. The recommended amount on packets is 100 g per person. I always think that this is far too much especially for a first course, but adapt amounts accordingly. If you increase the amount of pasta you could also increase the amount of squid.
Cook the pasta, drain it 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