Strozzapreti is a pasta with quite a tale! Originating from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy it has a fascinating history tied to the priesthood. There's a reason why the name strozzapreti means "priest stranglers" (strozza means strangle and preti means priest). And in today's post we delve a bit into the history and how to make this delicious pasta accompanied by a divine prawn and tomato based sauce!
My friend Monica's eyes shine when she talks about strozzapreti. We first met years ago in a restaurant-she was sitting at another table and was a reader of the blog and came up to me. We got to talking, connected on social media and became friends through our mutual love of food, Liz Lemon, politics and a mutual understanding of buying random food to cook (she tells she has whole pig's head in her freezer and I understand completely why she had to buy it).
She explains the pasta, "Basically when Papal States took over Emilia Romagna the church confiscated meat, milk and eggs from farmers. So farmer ladies got pissed because they had to make pasta without eggs. So they named the pasta strozzapreti or priest strangers because they hoped the priest who came over for Sunday lunch would choke on them." Bottom line: do not mess with Italians and their pasta.
Strozzapreti dough is as a result a very simple dough made of 00 flour and water rolled out by hand and then cut into strips. Monica rolls it out with her metre long pasta rolling pin. "This is exactly how a nonna would have done it," she says. The pasta is then twisted in between your palms in one deft move (deft being something that comes with practice). It cooks in 2 minutes and has the most incredibly wonderful, chewy texture to it.
She shows me how to roll them. She takes one long strand and presses it against the base of her thumb on the palm. With the other hand and palm the noodle is rolled and then pinched when it reaches the pinky and she pinches off a piece. One long strand of pasta can makes 4-5 pieces of strozzapreti. The key is not to have too much flour on your hands otherwise the pasta won't roll properly and will just slide along your palms.
As for the sauce, Monica explains, "Strozzapreti are from Romagna which is the Eastern part of the Emilia Romagna region, much of which is on the Adriatic Sea, so lots of recipes from there feature seafood. Strozzapreti can also be made with traditional ragu but this recipe works so well for me because of the texture of the pasta and how it traps all the sauce in its little twists and the simple seafood sauce makes it feel lighter."
Monica is just like me- she's a notorious over server. She piles plates high with food and fills bowls until they almost overflow, apologising at the same time as smiling as the over abundance of serving. I take a bite mentally thinking I'll eat about half the bowl. The texture is incredible-a wonderful chewy al dente texture that is so satisfying yet begs for another piece.
And the flavour? It sings with the simple flavours of a fresh tomato sauce, prawns and seafood and a hint of basil and garlic. It's so moreish that before I know it I can see the scarlet flecked base of my once overflowing bowl and I'm taking a tub home with me to give to Mr NQN (but spoiler alert: I ate it all too!).
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried strozzapreti pasta before? Are you an over server? And do you ever eat what you're meant to give or share with others? ;)