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Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

In an excerpt from his recent book Pasta Masterclass, London-based chef Mateo Zielonka uses fresh spaghetti alla chitarra and slow-cooked tomato sauce to pair with meatballs.

9:00 AM EST on November 9, 2023

Chitarra with Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce and Meatballs, from the book Pasta Masterclass by Mario Zielonka. Photo: Dave Brown

This spaghetti alla chitarra recipe comes from the recent cookbook Pasta Masterclass, by Mateo Zielonka. The author, chef, and social media star known as "The Pasta Man" covers all the basics of making pasta, as well as going deeper into shapes, techniques, doughs, fillings, and sauces in this instantly indispensable volume. Start by trying this recipe, then get a copy of Pasta Masterclass and cook your way through it.

Pasta Masterclass book cover
Pasta Masterclass.

Spaghetti alla chitarra with slow-cooked tomato sauce and meatballs isn’t a traditional Italian dish, but when your favourite TV programme is The Sopranos then you’re always going to want to cook and eat Italian-American style, just like Tony did. I love food that can be shared by simply placing the cooking pot in the centre of the dinner table – easy-going, generous, convivial food. The fresh green peppercorns are optional, but I urge you to buy a jar as they make the meatballs extra addictive.

Chitarra with Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

Chitarra with Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

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Recipe by Mateo Zielonka


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 400 g 400 /14oz chitarra (see video below)

  • For the tomato sauce
  • 60 ml 60 /4 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 2 x 400g/14oz cans of plum or chopped tomatoes

  • For the meatballs
  • 400 g 400 /14oz minced (ground) pork

  • 400 g 400 /14oz minced (ground) beef

  • 100 g 100 /3½oz stale bread, toasted (or use the pangrattato on page 248 [in the book], or Japanese panko breadcrumbs)

  • 3 3 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2 medium 2 shallots, peeled and

  • roughly chopped bunch of parsley

  • 30 g 30 /1oz fresh green peppercorns in brine (optional)

  • 1 1 egg

  • 50 g 50 /2oz Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve

  • 1 tsp 1 table salt


  • For the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the garlic and fry for a minute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, then cook on a low heat for 35–40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, place the toasted stale bread in the bowl of a food processor and whizz to fine breadcrumbs (don’t worry about a few crusty chunks). Add the garlic, shallots, parsley and peppercorns and blend again to create a paste. Transfer this mixture to a bowl along with both meats, the egg, Parmesan and salt. Mix to combine.
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C fan/410°F/gas mark 6.
  • Now form your meatballs. Aim for the size of a whole walnut, but weigh the first one – it should be 25g/1oz – to give you about 40 small meatballs. Place them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
  • Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, then drop them into the tomato sauce and set over a very low heat. (If you decide that 40 meatballs is too many, cool then freeze a dozen of them on a flat tray before transferring to a suitable container for use another time.)
  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil before adding a generous amount of table salt. Drop the pasta into the water and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the chitarra to the pan of sauce using tongs. Gently mix everything together, adding a splash of pasta water to loosen if needed. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Serve by placing the pot in the centre of the table along with a chunk of Parmesan, a fresh green salad and some cold beers.

Recipe Video


  • Spaghetti can be substituted for fresh spaghetti alla chitarra.
  • Excerpted with permission from Pasta Masterclass by Mateo Zielonka published by Quadrille Publishing, May 2023, RRP .50 Hardcover.

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