Italy: a population of 60.36 million people, 83% of which is Catholic.
The Pope resides in the Vatican, a city-state located in Rome, 97% of the population has been Christened, 7 out of 12 National holidays have roots in the Catholic Church. So it is clear that Catholicism is part of the Italian society, people embrace the principles of this religion, and priests have a central role for the communities.
This is true as of today, in 2020. If we take a couple of steps back, let’s say of about 200 years, the story is a little bit different.
At that time, the clergy were considered greedy and heartless, avid of food and money, at the expenses of the population that was, well, let’s say quite unhappy about it. So unhappy that they created a pasta called “Strozzapreti”, which translates as “priest stranglers” or “priest chokers” – talking about giving subtle messages there. There are several theories behind the name of this pasta shape:
1.This pasta originated in Emilia-Romagna, where the azdore (housewives in the dialect of this region) used to do all the cooking. It is believed that the original recipe included eggs in the dough, but the priests started to take them from the families, along with food and money. The azdore started to make this pasta with the only ingredients they had available, flour and water, but the rage for what the priests were doing was so much that they started strangling the pasta, as if it was the neck of the priest, creating this peculiar pasta shape.
2.The second theory is that the priests were so greedy that they would eat this pasta so quick that they would choke with it.
3.Another story is that the that the pasta was a partial payment that people made to the Church for the rent of the land. Whenever the wives made pasta for the priests, their husbands would be so angry to wish the priests would choke with it.
4.The bloodiest version of this story, is that strozzapreti resemble shoestrings, that were used to strangle priests during the worst times of the domination of the Papal State in Italy.
5.The final story is that priests, after mass, used to go visit the people in the village, and often they would have dinner with them. When the food offered to the priest was particularly good, he used to come visit the families more and more often. When they really had enough of him, they offered this pasta, that then earned the name of strozzapreti, to the priest, to make him aware he wasn’t welcome anymore.
Pasta: a lovely food, a crowd pleaser, but also a political statement.
Today, strozzapreti pasta is eaten everywhere in Italy, people don’t give it a particular meaning and the name behind it is more of a curiosity or a fun fact.
Recipe for 4 people
-semolina flour, 400g
-warm water, 200g
-pinch of salt
1.Mix together the ingredients and knead for 10 minutes
2.When you have a smooth dough, give it a ball shape and cover it with cling film. Leave it to rest for 30 minutes
3.Take 1/4 of the dough, (leave the rest covered) and flatten it with a rolling pin until it is 2/3 mm
4.Cut the flattened dough in stripes 2/3 cm wide, place the strip between the palms of your hands, and start rubbing it into a tube shape. Once you have shaped the top of the strip, tear it off and continue rolling the rest of the strip, like in the video below
5.Repeat the same operations for the rest of the dough, 1/4 at the time
6.Leave it to dry for 1 hour, and then cook it in boiling water for 3/4 minutes
Usually they are eaten with ragù, but this time I made 2 vegan variations: