An Italian Adventurer’s Journal ~ Extra Post
My favorite type of souvenir to bring home is an edible one!
When I was a child, my vacation souvenir was usually a trinket that ended up collecting dust on a shelf or was thrown into an old cigar box filled with other memories of vacations past. Now as an adult, I’m not very big on memory trinkets; instead I go for culinary souvenirs—something that, through sight, smell and taste, will transport me back to a particular place and time. I realize that something edible is not as long lasting as a t-shirt, a key chain or some fancy sit-around, but, at this point in my life, do I really need more stuff sitting around? Nah—I’d rather eat and savor my vacation one more time from home.
Last July, when DaVinci Wine sent me to Vinci, Italy, (read the details of that fantastic journey) we were given a tour of the Antico Pastificio Morelli (the ancient Morelli Pasta Factory) located in San Romano near Pisa. The factory was founded in the 1860s and it is still a Morelli family-run business—5 generations later. Bravo, Morelli!
What makes this particular pasta so special is that it uses wheat germ processed in a traditional way that is now one of the family’s most guarded secrets. In fact, while we were being toured though the factory, we had to turn off our cameras in the room where the wheat germ was being ground into flour, so we wouldn’t give away any of the proprietary secrets.
The Morelli’s make a wide variety of pastas from Tartufo (Pasta with Truffle) to Limone e Pepe (Lemon and Black Pepper Pasta) to Banderie di Porcini (Porcini Flag Pasta) to Peperoncino Rosso (Red Pepper Fettuccine) and the list goes on [See a wide selection, but not all, of Morelli pasta on Amazon.].
While we were on the tour I was told that since these are flavored pastas, the best way to serve them would be with a simple sauce—nothing too heavy or sophisticated because it would cover up the pastas’ unique and delicate flavors. When I suggested that their Cacao Penne (Cocoa Penne ~ yes, chocolate pasta) must taste really good in a cream sauce, I was once again reminded that even that would be too heavy of a sauce. “Wow!” I thought, “This is serious pasta!”
I had made such a scene when I first walked into the factory about the profumo buonissimo —the great smell— of the Porcini mushroom pasta, that at the end of the tour, when we were graciously given 3 free packages of pasta, the owner’s wife, with a wink, slipped a fourth package (the Porcini Flag pasta) into my gift bag. Fantastico!
My gift bag included, besides the bonus fourth package of Porcini, a package of Limone e Pepe, Peperoncino Rosso, and Spaghetti alla Chitarra (Guitar Spaghetti). “Wait, ‘guitar’ spaghetti?” Yes Elvis, but don’t think a guitar-shaped pasta. Chitarra pasta is an old-fashioned style pasta that was originally shaped by placing a sheet of raw pasta dough over a series of wires strung over a board—shown HERE—and then pressed through the wires (or “guitar strings”), which cuts the pasta into strips. Hence, the pasta is named after the “guitar” that is used to cut it.
Below is my recipe for Pomodorini Arrosti con Spaghetti alla Chitarra —”Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Guitar Spaghetti.” In keeping with the Morelli’s suggestion that only simple sauces be used, even though this spaghetti is not made with an additional flavor beyond the wheat germ itself, I made this with roasted grape tomatoes. Roasting them releases some of their sweet juices, but the tomatoes do not break down enough to make a true red sauce.
If you can’t find Morelli Spaghetti alla Chitarra, I suggest you make this dish with Bucatini (a thick spaghetti with a hole running through it)—or just plan ole’ spaghetti.
Pomodorini Arrosti con Spaghetti alla Chitarra
Roasted Grape Tomatoes with “Guitar” Spaghetti
2 dry pints grape tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 large clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cup white wine (I suggest DaVinci’s Pinot Grigio)
1 pound Morelli’s Spaghetti alla Chitarra (Bucatini or Spaghetti may be substituted)
1/4 cup chiffonade(*) fresh basil (*basil cut into thin ribbons)
1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
While the tomatoes roast~
When the tomatoes are roasted, remove from oven and set aside to cool.