Here’s our list of the best tools to make you feel like a real pro.
Whether you have Abruzzese heritage, or if you have already taken part in one of our Cooking Experiences here in Sulmona, you will know that there’s a tool for everything in our kitchen!
I am a nerd for anything that relates to the kitchen. Not only is it my favourite room in the house, but I have a real love for food preparation and kitchen tools, not to mention recipe books.
I also love to travel, and I believe that there is no better way to learn about the culture of a place than by its cuisine.
So, if you are like me at the end of a journey when packing your suitcase, all you wish for is extra space to add that special tajine pot, or for a change in airline regulations to allow you to bring back that Vietnamese knife – because how else could you cut your papaya back home!?
Now, while I admit to not having made a papaya salad that often (try to find green papaya in the Valle Peligna..) I still believe that kitchen tools – along with spices – make the best vacation souvenirs.
I guess I’m not alone in this considering how often we get asked “Where can I buy a chitarra or a pizzelle iron?”
Both are available to buy at Sulmona’s weekly market or from a couple of local shops including the one at the corner of Via Mazara and Via Roma. That is, if you have room in your luggage.
If you don’t have room, let me give two pieces of good news:
- We’ve trawled the web for the best kitchen tools that will make you feel like a pro Abruzzese chef in the comfort of your own kitchen – wherever that is.
- Eggs and flour are far easier to source than green papaya – your new toys will likely be used more often than my Vietnamese knife.
So here is our list of the best kitchen tools that will help you and your lucky guests feel like you’re back in Italy, over and over again: from a delicious pasta dish, all the way down to coffee and cake.
All have excellent reviews and can be shipped via Amazon to the United States and Canada. Most of them will ship to the rest of Europe, too. Please note that by purchasing from these links we will earn a small commission – as you may know, WelcometoSulmona.com is a private project funded by advertising and we appreciate your support!
“Life is a combination of magic and pasta” said Federico Fellini, and who are we to disagree? If you are amongst the lucky ones to have seen the magical pasta-making by Antonella and Nonna Dora in our cooking classes you will by now be familiar with the process: get your dough ready, roll it out, and cut! As much as a thoroughly handmade procedure is crucial to understanding how to get the right results, it’s perfectly fine to use a pasta machine if that helps you get pasta on the table more often!
Marcato Pasta Machine
There’s one of these in every single household in Italy – made in Italy for more than 80 years, this stainless-steel model by Marcato is guaranteed to last for ages.
Pasta in Abruzzo is more often than not alla chitarra – a beautiful, square-sectioned spaghetto. Best obtained with a chitarra tool, you can also get your spaghetti alla chitarra the easy way with this steel attachment to your pasta-machine.
But if you want the real thing, here it is! Pronounced key-tahr-rah, this beautiful wooden tool is believed to have been invented in Abruzzo around the 1800’s. Meaning ‘guitar’, a chitarra looks like a double-sided harp, with strings set close on one side, further apart on the other. In the centre of the device is a slanted board, designed to allow the cut pasta to slide out easily once it’s been cut by the strings. Simply use a rolling pin, flattening and pressing the dough through the wires.
More pasta! Gnocchi and ravioli are a favourite of Italian bambini. Easy to make, impossible not to love. One could argue that gnocchi – fluffy potato dumplings – are technically not “pasta”, but being an all-time favourite, there’s no Thursday without them for us Italians.
A cute little tool to add to your collection, this ‘rigagnocchi’ will add to your gnocchi their traditional texture which helps them to hold more sauce without flattening the delicate dough. Made in Italy from natural beechwood.
Ravioli Making Set
Ravioli, on the other hand, may be more complex to make but once you learn how to roll out your dough you can fill them with literally anything: from the traditional ricotta and spinach to fish filet and citrus zest. Help yourself with this cute ravioli maker set!
Now that you’ve worked your dough into tiny little art pieces, it’s time to cook them al dente. Here in Italy, we use pasta pots – or just a normal pot and a scolapasta (a strainer). Besides sticking to some golden rules (like using plenty of water, no salt before it boils, and respecting the right cooking times) we think that adding a touch of Italian design to the kitchen can’t hurt. Here are our three favourite pasta pots.
Designed by Massimo Castagna and selected by the MoMa, this borosilicate pot is a feast for the eyes. Boiling water brings ingredients to life: as pasta transforms from raw to al dente, it begins to twirl and dance, and vegetables bob and brighten as they blanche. Each pot is handmade in Italy and only 10 are made each day, making your pot a truly one-of-a-kind design.
This non-stick pot by Bialetti has a built-in strainer and comes in different colours. It is also very reasonably priced.
Italian design at its utmost classic -I have inherited mine from my grandma, Nonna Mimì, and one day it will be my daughter’s. I can’t think of a better way to cherish family memories over generations around the table than this pasta pot.
The perfect pot for Pasta and Fagioli
“When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool, that’s amore” sang Dean Martin. A pillar of the Italian peasant kitchen, pasta e fagioli is a simple and complete dish that has fed generations. You can find regional versions of the dish almost anywhere in Italy. Here in Sulmona we call it “Sagne e Fagioli” eand we use egg-free pasta with local Sulmona beans.
Use a clay pot when boiling your beans, you will get the best pasta e Fagioli! This one is not made in Italy – but quite stylish, isn’t it?
My mezzaluna too comes from my grandma, Nonna Mimì and it is certainly one of the most precious item in my kitchen. A mezzaluna is a rocking chopper used to prepare your soffritto: the base of any culinary preparation, from salsa to ragout, to braised meats, soffritto is made of what we call the “holy trinity” – onion, celery and carrot. Here is one we found and liked on the Amazon marketplace: made in Italy from stainless steel with beechwood handles.
Arrosticini – tiny, juicy mutton skewers – are almost a religious dish to any Abruzzese. Talk about grilling them in an oven or frying them in a pan and you’ll get frowned upon in an instant. The right and only way to prepare arrosticini is to gently cook them over a special barbecue called a ‘canaletta’ which allows you to twiddle the sticks as they cook ensuring they cook evenly and remain juicy. Get yours from Amazon.it (the seller ships to the US, too) and your summer parties will take on a taste of Abruzzo!
Had enough pasta? Here we are at the end of our list, with a well-deserved sweet treat. Pizzelle are the most popular sweet treat in Abruzzo. Made with a special iron, they are served on all festive occasions and are an essential part of all wedding banquets. You can buy beautifully decorated pizzelle irons at the market in Sulmona but if you can’t fit one in your suitcase, this is one we liked on Amazon.com.
If you’d rather have a stovetop version – we’ve got you covered with this traditional model made in Italy.
Moka Coffee Maker
The iconic moka coffee pot invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti has not changed its design over the years. According to market research, the Bialetti moka is found in nine out of ten Italian households. If there’s anything to add to this comprehensive list of coffee commandments written by The Telegraph I would say “thou shalt not drink cold coffee at home” – which is why we call our coffee ‘espresso’ – literally made on the go, expressly. Give yourself the gift of an Italian moka – and wake up to the smell of Italian espresso, just like here.
Do you have a favorite kitchen tool that is not on our list? Share it in the comments!