The Historical Regional Cuisines Of Italy - Abruzzo Part IV
The most famous recipe of the traditional cuisine of Abruzzo is a pasta, of course strictly home made, which is prepared with a tool specific to this region, and interestingly named "the guitar". The name derives from the fact that this is truly a stringed instrument: a rectangular frame of beech wood forged by artisans who ply their craft only after many years of apprenticeship. The skills developed over such a long time allow them to place by hand thin steel wires separated only by a distance of one millimeter: An absolutely stunning display of master craftsmanship.
The mixture of eggs and flour is worked by hand and then rolled out in sheets called pettole, and are then placed one at a time on the guitar. Passing over the guitar with a rolling pin, the threads of of metal wires cut the dough into strips with the typical square cross section, which preserve the ancient name of "maccheroni alla chitarra" or macarone made on the guitar. Toothsome, elastic, a beautiful golden color, and resistant to overcooking while still staying deliciously al dente, the maccheroni alla chitarra are ready to receive the most typical Abruzzese sauce: a dense, dark tomato sauce which is made from sturdy bacon, grated pecorino and spiced to high heaven by the customary spicy red chili pepper. An alternative popular seasoning sauce is a ragu made from a mixture of lamb and pork.
The other traditional pastas of Abruzzo are al ceppo and alla Molinara, also known as "strangolapreti" or "the pasta used to strangle priests". This bizarrely named pasta is prepared with a precise technical acumen, with an very difficult sequence of studied motions. First by making a hole in a pagnottella, or mound of pasta dough, and after a number of rapid and decisive actions rendering a single long string of about fifty meters, or one hundred and sixty feet in length!
The technical packaging of pasta, derived from the traditional and time honored craft industry and transplanted to a significant number of modern pasta manufacturing establishments, now compete with the best-known pasta factories in the food's traditional home of Naples. A secret of the Abruzzo region's excellent products is the hardiness of the wheat flour used and the fact that the tradition of manual preparation was implemented into the mechanical means to provide a pasta which tastes, looks, and feels home made. Today, these pastas are distributed throughout the world and then allow the able chef to prepare courses that, if not identical to those to be found in Abruzzo proper, are very close to them in authenticity.
Another protagonist of the ancient Abruzzese table is a form of a minestrone soup that is virtually legendary, and should technically be labelled a food ritual. This soup is known as "the virtues" which are seven.. the same number as the quantity of the various ingredients in the soup. According to the recipe there should be seven dried pulses provided by the winter; seven new greens offered by the spring, seven fresh vegetables, seven seasonings, seven types of meat, and seven pastas! Everything had to cook for a full seven hours at the end of which the soup was finally ready! The essential virtue and significance of this soup is linked to pre-Christian pagan rites and numerological traditions that date back many centuries.
Among the meat dishes of this magnificent culinary region, in addition to the traditional porchetta, are the simple, extremely rustic recipes practiced by the mountain shepherds. The age of these recipes defy description as many of them date back several millennia, and are based on the products of sheep farming, which has ruled alongside agriculture the entire economy of the region until just a few decades ago.
Continued in Abruzzo Part V
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