Fresh homemade tonnarelli pasta

In Rome, tonnarelli noodles are popular in restaurants and homes because of their ability to hold thick, rich sauces.

And in fact, tonnarelli — originally from Abruzzo — pair beautifully with the four iconic pasta sauces of Rome: cacio e pepe, gricia, carbonara and amatriciana.

Before moving to Rome, I never gave much thought to tonnarelli. In Italy, we have endless regional variations of spaghetti-like noodles. Each type of noodle is made using different flours and various proportions of eggs and/or water, thus creating a wide range of textures and flavors.

In Umbria, we make stringozzi with white flour and (almost) no eggs. The Tuscan pici are the thick cousins of stringozzi. Besides the tonnarelli, Abruzzo has gifted us with spaghetti alla chitarra. Both the tonnarelli and the spaghetti alla chitarra are made with eggs and a mixture of white flour and semolina (durum wheat flour).

The term  “chitarra,” refers to a wooden frame strung with fine metal wires. The pasta dough is pushed through the wires, creating square-shaped noodles.

Other similar noodles, the troccoli, are made in Puglia with semolina, white flour, eggs and water. They are cut with a special a grooved rolling pin, the troccolaturo. The bigoli from Veneto are made with white flour and water or eggs and pressed through a tool named bigolaro which is a hand operated pasta extruder ( Photo Wikimedia ).

As much as I’d love to own all these exotic pasta implements, I live now in a small apartment and I simply have no space.

Over the years, however, I have figured out that I can rely on my trusted pasta machine to make all sort of pasta shapes, including the delicious tonnarelli. Even my Roman friends have approved the adaptation, and all my cooking class guests have received them with much enthusiasm!



  • 100 g (3.5 oz) 00 flour, protein content 10-12 %
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) semolina (very fine durum flour)
  • 2 large eggs

Serves 2-3.

To make the dough, use my food processor method or knead all ingredients on a floured wooden board until smooth and elastic. If you are not sure about the protein content of your flour, check the nutritional label. Rest the dough for at least 20 minutes covered with a tea towel.

Set the smooth rollers of the pasta machine on the widest setting. Cut the dough into pieces which must be about the size of a large egg.

Flatten one piece of dough into a rectangle, and feed through the rollers. Fold the rectangle in half and feed through the rollers three or four more times, dusting with flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

Turn the machine’s dial down to the next (narrower) setting. Feed the dough through the rollers without folding. Repeat for the next 2 settings to obtain a 2 mm (1/12 inch) thick pasta sheet (about the thickness of 1 Euro or Dollar coin).

Continue to roll out each piece of dough in the same manner.

Cut the dough into square ribbons while the pasta is still soft. I use the 2 mm (1/12 inch) flat spaghetti cutter of my pasta machine (see below).

hot to cut tonnarelli spaghetti alla chitarra with a pasta machine
Double pasta machine cutter, flat spaghetti above, medium fettuccine below
small group pasta class in Rome
Testing the tagliolini cutter for tonnarelli

You can also use a narrow fettuccine/tagliolini cutter (4 mm = 1/6 inch) but note that the noodles will be quite chewy and take quite some time to cook. The thin, square shape obtained with the flat spaghetti cutter is definitely superior.

Keep flouring the noodles to avoid sticking and spread them on a wooden board or tea towel to dry. Noodles tend to absorb humidity, and might stick to granite or other worktops.

homemade tonnarelli pasta recipe

Cook in salted boiling water for 1 and 1/2 minute if fresh, or 2 minutes if dry or frozen. Taste them after one minutes to asses the exact cooking time.

It is important to cook the pasta in plenty of water, about 1 l (1 quart) per person. If you are cooking for more than 4 people, cook several small batches rather than a large one, keeping the cooked batches warm in the sauce.

Once the pasta strands don’t stick to each other, you can arrange them in a mound and freeze, first individually on a tray and then in a box. Cook from frozen, or they will become sticky and impossible to separate!

Fresh spaghetti alla chitarra made with a pasta machine

Enjoy your authentic Roman pasta with a traditional sauce like the gricia in the image below, buon appetito!

fresh pasta machine tonnarelli with gricia sauce