This is a pasta from Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy. There are many versions of this dish with the same name throughout Italy, some being a spinach and ricotta dumpling while others are a rolled out and twisted semolina based pasta (sometimes eggless). My version comes from my great-grandfather's town of Cattolica in Emilia-Romagna, just on the border with Marche. The addition of yeast makes it unique with a deeper, bread-like flavor that asserts the pasta so that it competes with the sauce.
Historical and etymological note: Strozzapreti means "priest stranglers" or "priest chokers." There are a couple of reasons for this provocative name. It was very common for the women of the house to make this dish for visiting priests. It was cheap and intended to fill up their guests. The priests were also known to be gourmands, or perhaps thought to be in order to corroborate the idea that priests are greedy and corrupt, symbolized by their insatiable hunger. That is agreed upon but this next part isn't. Priest strangler may refer to the "strangling" of the dough in the process of its production (more on this in the recipe). It may alternatively refer to a specific time when a priest actually choked to death on these while visiting a parishioner, but this is unsubstantiated. It seems clear, however, that the region has historically been anticlerical. Romagna was directly ruled by the popes for centuries. The state upheld an ultra conservative religious society and the pope's mandate was questionable at best. When nationalism and socialist ideals swept threw Italy in the mid to late 19th century, it seemed to take hold strongly in the papal states as a kind of backlash to heavy-handed or backward policies. Anticlericalism was strong within Romagna, even later being a hotbed of Italian Communist Party support and all the anti-religious feelings associated with such doctrines after World War II. So the etymology of this dish is by no means coincidental. The wives would make it for the visiting priests but the husbands would secretly hope they would choke on them, and maybe the wives too...secretly.
500g/1 lb 00 flour (or 1/2 cake flour, 1/2 AP flour)
2 eggs (optional--eh, contentious point in Italy)
1/2 ounce (one packet) instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbls olive oil
Dump the flour on a board or countertop and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs in the well and beat in the salt, yeast and olive oil with a fork. If you are using active dry yeast, you will need to activate it in warm water and a pinch of sugar. If you have instant yeast, don't bother. Work in the sides of the well, creating a paste and add water as needed until it forms a dough. It should not be sticky. Knead the dough for a good 10 to 15 minutes (okay, I often just use my mixer) and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours. I like to put the dough in the refrigerator and leave it overnight to create a slow fermentation but if time is not on your side, 2 hours will do. Take small, walnut sized bit of dough and roll it between your hands to create a dowel shaped pasta. Repeat many times over. Boil these lovely strands for 2-3 minutes in salted water and evacuate to an appropriate sauce. They will rise in the water but will contract as it cools a little.
Gorgonzola--A bachemel sauce laden with Italy's brilliant answer to blue cheese, and a little parmesan.
Pancetta-tomato--Golden brown pancetta with onions, garlic, thyme, carrots, canned tomatoes and bit of white wine. Serve with parmesan.
Butter and sage--Melt a good knob of butter and brown it slightly, add fresh sage leaves, a bit of lemon juice and add the pasta with a little of its water to create a sauce. Load it with parmasan. A simple and subtle sauce to accentuate this unique pasta.
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