Rainy days call for hearty, filling dishes like this Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Sweet Pepper Lamb Ragu. We’ve been having a lot of rainy days lately, hence, eating copious amounts of pasta is the norm around here.
This is one of my favorites. I’d never heard of spaghetti alla chitarra until I stumbled across the recipe in an issue of Saveur a few months ago. Since the recipe for the dish came straight from the region of Abruzzo, Italy, I new it had to be legitimate and therefore definitely worth trying.
Spaghetti alla Chitarra is a type of thick spaghetti that is made on a guitar-like tool, giving it a square shape instead of the traditional round. I was certainly not expecting to find spaghetti alla chitarra locally and went to the store looking for a thick spaghetti instead(which works just fine in it’s place). Imagine my surprise when I stumble upon a package of authentic, Italian import Spaghetti alla Chitarra. I almost passed out in the local Macey’s, folks. After I regained my composure I stuffed my cart full of as many packages of the pasta I could carry and ran home to make this.
This type of spaghetti is thick and porous in texture, making it an excellent pasta for grabbing on to the tomato sauce it’s tossed in. If you are a little wary of lamb, use a combo of 1/2 ground lamb and 1/2 ground beef to tone the lamb flavor down.
Also, I really recommend using real Italian canned plum tomatoes. They make a difference, I promise. I actually won’t use anything but San Marzano tomatoes when I make pasta dishes. They are richer in flavor and seem to be thicker when crushed into a sauce. And, as I understand it, you don’t use pre-crushed tomatoes in Italian pasta dishes. You crush them by hand before adding them to the pan. Messy? A little. But you’ll certainly feel like an authentic Italian. For a moment, anyway.
Top the pasta with a little freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano. My two-year old made off with a wedge we received from a neighbor who had recently visited Italy. Despite the giant bite marks she left on it’s perfectly aged facade, we still used it and it was the perfect finishing touch. That, and a few leaves of basil from my giant basil plant whom I have named ‘Basil-geddon’. He just keeps growing and I’m afraid he might take over the house at some point.
At least the house will smell good, right?
- ⅓ cup Olive Oil
- 1 lb. Ground Lamb
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 4 Garlic Cloves, sliced
- ½ cup Dry White Wine
- 1 cup Chicken Stock
- 2 pinches Chili Flakes
- 1 (15 ounce) Can Whole Plum Tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1 large Red Bell Pepper, sliced ¼" thick
- 1 large Orange Bell Pepper, sliced ¼" thick
- Coarse salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. Spaghetti alla Chitarra or thick spaghetti
- Grated fresh Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, to top
- Basil leaves, to garnish
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium/high heat.. Add the ground lamb and cook, breaking up into small pieces until browned. Add the bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the white wine and cook until reduced by half, 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and chili flakes and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and let cook for 10-15 minutes, until sauce is thickened slightly. Add the peppers to the sauce and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the peppers have just softened up. Check seasonings and add more salt, if needed. Discard bay leaves.
- While the sauce is cooking, bring a pot of water seasoned with coarse salt to a boil. Add the spaghetti alla chitarra and cook until al dente, about 11-13 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the pan of sauce. Toss until well coated. Serve with grated cheese on top and a few sprigs of basil.
Recipe slightly adapted from Saveur.com