The Italians are great ones for imagery when it comes to naming pasta: think orecchiette (little ears), penne (quills), capelli d’angelo, (angel’s hair), farfalle (butterflies), strozzapreti (priest stranglers—see below). Spaghetti itself means ‘a simple string’.
During a trip to Calabria more than 20 years ago, I was taken through a pasta factory that specialised in X-rated shapes, with a particular focus on the male organ. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name given to these tiny appendages, perhaps just as well…
It was on an earlier trip—to the Abruzzo, east of Rome—that I picked up this chitarra maker (pictured), a simple wooden device, with tightly fastened wires, in the form of a guitar; before one gets to work at rolling the pasta dough, it’s de rigueur to run your fingers across the cutting wires, channelling a little Clapton or Prince or Hendrix. As soon as I saw it, I was taken by the romance of it, and its clear, yet unsaid, requirement that the pasta must be hand-made. It fitted neatly in my luggage.
The resultant pasta—after the dough is rolled thinly, and pushed through the wires—is square-shaped pasta lunga—the description given to any long form pasta, like spaghetti, or pappardelle, or fettuccine.