Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragù di Agnello e Peperoni (Fresh Pasta with Lamb and Bell Pepper Sauce)

Next time I’ll be visiting the Italian region of Abruzzo I’ll have to watch out, because I’m cheating in this post. Every region of Italy has its own pasta shapes, and for Abruzzo this is the Spaghetti alla Chitarra, also called Maccheroni alla Chitarra. In other regions this type of pasta is called tonnarelli or troccoli.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra are thick square fresh egg noodles, made from semolina flour and with a thickness and width of 2 to 3 mm (1/12 to 1/8 inch). They are called “alla chitarra” because they are traditionally made with a guitar-like device, which has a wooden frame strung with metal wires. The pasta dough is first rolled out with a rolling pin, then arranged on top of the metal wires, and then a rolling pin is used to press the pasta through the wires and thus cut it. You guessed it: chitarra is the Italian word for guitar. The device helps to give the pasta a rough surface, ideal for sauce to cling to.

I don’t own such a device, but since I do own a tagliolini attachment for my pasta roller with a width of 2-3 mm, I figured I can cheat and prepare something very close to spaghetti alla guitarra using the attachment for tagliolini. To get square pasta, the thickness of the dough should also be 2-3 mm. Spaghetti alla chitarra should be served very much al dente, with a lot of bite to them, so it is important not to overcook them.

One of the traditional ways to serve spaghetti alla chitarra in Abruzzo is with a ragù of lamb and bell peppers, flavored with garlic and bay leaf, and that is what I dressed the spaghetti alla chitarra with. It turned out wonderfully and I will definitely make this again. The ragù is made with fresh tomatoes and has a very elegant taste.

The recipe is traditionally prepared with lamb shoulder cut into small cubes. I used minced lamb instead since that is what I had, but next time I will try it with the cubed lamb for a slightly different mouthfeel (the minced lamb is kind of ‘grainy’). To enhance the lamb flavor, I added some concentrated lamb stock that I have in my freezer. When I make stock, I always make a lot, simmer it down to concentrate it, and then freeze it in ice cube trays.


For 2 servings

2 eggs

200 grams (1 1/4 cups) semola di grano duro rimacinata

250 grams (.55 lbs) lamb shoulder, cut into small cubes (or minced lamb)

3 red and yellow bell peppers, cut into thin strips

500 grams (1.1 lbs) ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 bay leaf

80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

(optional) 4 Tbsp strongly concentrated lamb stock

(optional) freshly grated pecorino abruzzese, or other pecorino or parmigiano reggiano


Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and the bay leave, and sauté over medium low heat until the garlic is golden. Do not allow the garlic to burn.

Add the lamb and brown it over medium heat.

Add the bell peppers and sauté for another minute.

Add the white wine.

Cook over medium heat, stirring, until most of the wine has evaporated.

Add the tomatoes.

Add the concentrated lamb stock, if using.

Lower the heat and allow to simmer, stirring now and then.

Prepare fresh pasta dough from the eggs and the flour, allow it to rest for half an hour in the fridge, and then roll it out to a thickness of 2 to 3 mm (1/12 to 1/8 inch) and cut it into noodles with a width of 2 to 3 mm as well. By all means use a chitarra device if you own one 🙂

Arrange the spaghetti alla chitarra on a floured surface to prevent them from sticking together.

The ragù is done when the sauce has thickened and the lamb is tender (with minced lamb that’s not relevant), which takes about an hour to an hour and a half. Remove the garlic and the bay leaf at this point.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and spaghetti alla chitarra, and cook until still very al dente, 6 to 8 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the cooking water, and add the pasta to the ragù.

Toss to mix, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if it becomes too dry.

Serve immediately on warm plates. I preferred it without cheese, as that may overpower the elegant taste of the sauce. In Abruzzo it is eaten with and without cheese.

Wine pairing

The traditional wine pairing is the red wine from Abruzzo: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. However make sure to select a medium bodied one, as a full-bodied Montepulciano would overpower the delicate sauce.

17 thoughts on “Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragù di Agnello e Peperoni (Fresh Pasta with Lamb and Bell Pepper Sauce)

  1. This looks absolutely wonderful Stefan! It’s been ages since I’ve made fresh pasta but you’ve inspired me to recommence the tradition! Particularly with ragu. Delicious!


  2. Ciao,sono abruzzese e conosco bene gli spaghetti alla chitarra,io li faccio appunto con quello strumento ,alla teramana con piccole polpettine di manzo…”deliziosa”!!!
    Proverò a condirli con la tua salsa (che non conoscevo)…
    A presto,Nada


    1. Ciao Nada, sono contentissimo che un abruzzese ha letto la mia ricetta e ha lasciato un commento 🙂 Sono sorpreso che non conoscevi il ragù di agnello e peperoni, perché credevo che sia una ricetta abruzzese. Ma non sono sicuro, perché sono stato in Abruzzo solo per qualche giorno. Vorrei provare la tua salsa con piccole polpettine di manzo. Hai una ricetta?
      Grazie e a presto, Stefan


  3. A great post, Stefan. I wrote about tonnarelli, too, but my pasta machine’s “angel hair” cutter will have to do. The pasta is square even if not the right thickness. I have enough pasta gadgets and don’t need to buy a chitarra, too. I really do need to experiment with a lamb sugo. My family enjoyed lamb but I don’t recall them ever using it to build a tomato sauce. Perhaps cost was a factor. No matter. This dish you prepared looks delicious and is one I would definitely enjoy, especially the use of bell peppers, 🙂


  4. Since my copy of Ottolenghi’s ‘Jerusalem’ has just arrived in my mailbox I had an idea that for awhile most other new recipes would simply be bookmarked for the future . . . well, I so love lamb: we can buy what are called ‘shoulder steaks’ at a reasonable price and I use capsicums a lot – have an idea it is your recipe to be trialled over next weekend 🙂 !! Thanks!


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