Monday, July 1, 2013

Pasta Banjo

Pasta Banjo

Pasta Chitarra

Pasta Chitarra

I was doing a simple research for a restaurant rip off recipe. I wanted to try to recreate one of my favorite recipes from Olive Garden called Ravioli Di Portebello. I got sidetracked, as you can sometimes do when you google search, and came across a chef using an instrument that looked like a guitar or banjo! I had to know more. Exploration time began.

Pasta Dough Placed On Pasta Chitarra

The “banjo” is an instrument called a Chitarra. Pronounced “Key tar-a,” which means guitar in Italian. I found out that most of the Chitarra’s are made in Abruzzo, Italy and that it has been a tradition of the region for centuries. Wonder where I was that I had never heard of them? A rectangular frame is fitted with musical wire which is placed at intervals and stretched across the frame. Freshly made pasta is placed on top and then a rolling pin is rolled over the pasta. It falls to bottom of the box in a perfect fettuccine or angel hair shape.

Notice How the "Strings" of Pasta Separate

I just had to have one! Of course, I wanted an authentic one so that I could savor the character of the chitarra that may have been used by ancient chefs of Italy. I was on a mission to find one, so I googled it, of course. Alas. I still could not find an old one. There were many new ones available that are hand crafted from Abruzzo so I opted for one of those.

Ingredients for Pasta

I waited anxiously by the mailbox. Have you ever noticed that sometimes the anticipation is so much more exciting than actually having an item of your dreams? In this case, it was not. I was, and am, just as excited as when I dreamed about it. When the Chittara arrived, I started making all sorts of pasta in different shapes. I could have just used the chittara pasta with the sauce I was conjuring up for my ravioli di Pomodoro but decided to create the recipe as exact to the Olive Garden’s standards as possible so I opted for using ravioli. After much experimentation, this is the recipe I came up with and I think it’s pretty good.

In Bowl

Knead for 15 Minutes

Double Batch of Kneaded Dough

Mushrooms and Onions Being Sauteed

Filling the Ravioli

Smoked Gouda and Sundried Tomatoes

My friends probably aren’t going to appreciate the shots I took of them eating the pasta but it sure proves the point that it definitely did turn out!

Ravioli Di Portabello a la Nina

For pasta:

4 large eggs (set on counter for 20 minutes before using) 2 ¼-2 ½ cups flour


Take a large bowl. Put flour into it and place cracked eggs in the middle. Knead for 15 minutes in bowl and on counter. Sprinkle with a little bit of flour and cover with cellophane for another 20 minutes.

Now make the filling:

16 oz portabella mushrooms 1 medium onion About 1/4th c. either mascarpone or ricotta-preferably homemade


Place mushrooms into food processor along with onions and grind til it almost reaches a puree but not quite.

Pour a small amount of butter in a pan and sauté the onion and mushrooms till all the liquid evaporates and mushrooms are cooked. Set aside.


8 oz smoked gouda cheese ½ jar sun dried tomatoes. Recipe for White Sauce-add 2 cups

White or Bechemel Sauce

5T butter 2T grated onion 1 c. chicken broth 1 c half and half ½ t. salt ¼ t. pepper 1 pinch thyme 1 pinch cayenne pepper


In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Add cold half and half and cold chicken broth all at once. Stir well. Cook, stirring frequently at medium heat. Remove and stir in seasoning. Now add the smoked gouda and sundried tomatoes which have been chopped in a food processor. Cook until cheese melts.

Now assemble.

Lay out ravioli. Place filling in center of each. Cover with top. If you are not going to use immediately, freeze quickly on a baking pan and then place in freezer zip lock bags to freeze.

When ready to cook, boil water and add about ½ C salt to the boiling water.

Now add ravioli from freezer bag or fresh pasta. Boil for approx 2 minutes or til they float to the top. When they float to top, cook about 1 more minute. Drain. Place into another pan of melted butter and cook very slightly. Drain again and place on a plate and spoon on the sauce. You might add chopped chives or green onions at this point.

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  1. Wow, it looks like I missed a great swim night! Can't wait 'till I can get into the water again with my gypsy ladies.

  2. Sounds yummy! Ah, memories of your pool...

  3. Oh my!!!! That must have been gooood!

  4. You seem to do a lot of cooking these days Cheryl! If only I could have a taste of your foodie masterpiece.

    Have a great week!

  5. The photos of your friends are too funny! LOL I learned something about pasta today. :)

  6. This sounds amazing and my son is a HUGE mushroom fan.Thanks for your sweet comments on my blog... you know I was going to post about the caged doll Santo I'm making but opted for the Grotto instead since I just got back :) Oh! and by the way, loved the containers in the backgound! Is that the coolest canister set ever?!?!Hugs, B

  7. Wow, that looks amazing. Love mushrooms. I enjoyed the pohotos of your friends, tee hee. Cheryl yes that is what the invite was for. I still will be using my old blog as well. Thanks for accepting invite. Now you can get in when it's closed;) Have a wonderful day and yummo on your post.

  8. OMG!!! I must tell each of you HealingWoman blog lovers.. I am the one in the last pic above licking my plate.. omg!! that was THE BEST PASTA I have ever had in all my pasta eating years!! I believe it was the mushroom / sauce that we were licking. Talk about good to the last drop!!!
    Trish & glad to be one of the gypsy women!!
    Thank you again for the chance to be a taste tester!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Hi Cheryl. Yes I did receive Goddess Bianca and am thrilled to have her here at home. My email must not be working. I did send you two emails to let you know. I love her and she sits next to Al-Kima. Thank you very much and am looking forward to reading the book. I have Al-Kima and Goddess Bianca on one of my other blogs:

    me, gloria

  10. I was the second picture...OMG! it was delicious and the company was...well...gypsyish...LOL!


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