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Like gnocchi? Try strozzapreti!

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We made this dish (literally translated as strangled priests...not sure why) this weekend on two separate occasions two ways to rave reviews. They're basically light-as-air spinach (though you can also use swiss chard) and ricotta dumplings with a bit of egg, parmesan and a touch of flour. I made them in a sage and brown butter sauce as a starter to a meal (3 per person) and then again as a main course in a fresh tomato sauce with a touch of basil, oregano, thyme and balsamic vinegar. They are sublimely light but richly flavoured. Has anyone else made these? Does anyone have any must-try variations?

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  1. Maybe I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure strozzapreti are noodles- hand cut and rolled into a fusilli-ish shape...
    after further review: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strozzap...

    we are both correct. how typically Italian.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nose_food

      I've only heard it refer to the noodles. The others sound like gnudi to me ("nude" ravioli filling without the pasta clothing).

    2. Amanda, this is the variation I use.

      Strozzapreti with Mushroom Sauce

      2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
      1 garlic clove, finely chopped
      1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
      6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
      ¼ pound mixed mushrooms (such as porcini and cremini)
      ½ cup brown stock (I use veal stock)

      Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the garlic until it is golden in color and fragrant, about 1 minute over medium heat. Add the chili flakes, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and veal stock and cook 10 minutes. Spoon over strozzapreti and sprinkle 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley and 2 tablespoons freshly grated parm cheese

      Serves 2

      1. Actually translates better as "Priest Chokers" it was a noodle served when the local priest came by to mooch a meal. Cheap and filling.

        1. This is what strozzapreti look like:
          1) http://www.industryplayer.com/images/... ... and

          2) http://static.flickr.com/35/74013015_...

          I cooked up a bag very recently from Altamura, Italy (BARI).
          The OP is probably referring to Gnudi.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cheese Boy

            yup thats it. the strozzapreti i know is a pasta from emilia romagna,
            however wikipedia says there are two forms.
            the one described above is a variation from toscana.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strozzap...

          2. http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/cda/r...

            Could there be more than one interpretation? The recipe from Food Network is clearly different than Cheese Boy's photos.

            1. Hi all, sorry to complicate issues! No, I'm definitely not referring to gnudi. Biba's recipe is from a particular cafe called Ganino's and it is for dumplings. It is similar to what HillJ posted a link to, though this recipe calls for much less flour:

              2 lbs spinach (wrung out and chopped finely)
              3/4 lb fresh ricotta (with the liquid squeezed out)
              pinch nutmeg
              1 egg, beaten
              1 1/3 cups parmesan
              1/2 cup ap flour

              You combine all of the ingredients barring the flour and then add a bit of the flour at a time until the mixture binds. To ensure that it stays together when it is boiled, you form one walnut-shaped dumpling and drop it into boiling water. If it stays together, you are good to shape the rest, lightly flour them and boil for 3-4 minutes.

              1. And I don't mean to complicate matters even more but there is a pasta called malfatti that are exactly like what you describe.
                http://www.italianmade.com/recipes/re...

                the best pic I could find is from this German blog:
                http://peho.typepad.com/chili_und_cia...

                Perhaps the confusion and overlap is the result of some sort of regional Italian idiosyncracy?

                3 Replies
                1. re: Gnu23

                  Hm! Does sound very similar! This might be a case of to-may-to/to-mah-to. That said, they are lovely little suckers. :)

                  1. re: AmandaEd

                    This article (http://nymag.com/restaurants/features...) implies that gnudi, malfatti, and strozzapreti are all the same (but definitely different from gnocchi).

                    1. re: Nettie

                      ah...interesting. Thanks for that link.

                2. Gnu23, the photo is identical to what I make for my family.
                  Amanda, I'm going to give your version a try and see how it differs.

                  Thanks all!

                  1. Has anyone tried making this or similar pasta-type creations for Passover, and substituting matzah meal or matzah cake flour for the flour? It sounds like it would be good, but also like it would be pretty labor intensive to try without knowing it would work.

                    Either way, the recipe sounds delicious.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: seattledebs

                      I'm almost positive that it would work, as the flour is used simply as a binding agent. You're right - it would be a lovely complement to a Passover meal!

                      1. re: seattledebs

                        Try potato starch. It makes a chewy gnocchi consistency.. not too bad.

                      2. Strozzapreti are so named because of an old folktale, one which tells of a priest who enjoyed these dumplings so much that he ate too many and choked. Interestingly enough, strozzapreti can change drastically from region to region as any other dish. Often, conflicting stories and chefs in Naples suggest that strozzapreti (or strangolopreti) are identical to potato gnocchi or cavatelli, though the same can be said of those made with ricotta and some form of leafy green. In Sorrento, the classic way to serve strozzapreti (as with almost any other pasta) is with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. A favorite of mine combines seafood with the fillers to make the gnocchi, served with vodka sauce.

                        1. I'm now dying to try and make these and I LOVE CuzinVinny's history!

                          1. Lovely variations, HillJ and CuzinVinny! Will try those this week!

                            1. STorzzarpreti (priest chokers) from where my dad comes are not like you described. They are hard as rocks and chewy textured. As many readers described, they are rolled individually by hand and are really long. We learned to make them from his little home town in Italy. They are served with a really good quality tomato sauce and are quite heavy but delicious.
                              The recipe you have looks exactly like gnudi. In all my travels and in translation of the name, I don't think light and fluffy would equate to choking priests. There may have been a typo or error.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: itryalot

                                The spinach-gnocchi conception of the strozzapretti sounds great, as do the spinach-ricotta matzoh balls, but if you're serving a meat dish for Passover (I'm doing a tadjine this year after so many, many roast legs of non-kosher lamb), you've got a no-no - fleischedek with milchedek.
                                The French often describe especially heavy dishes as "étouffe-chrétien" (Christian-choking), from the days when Christians were ascetic. I imagine "priest-chokers" may be a variation.

                              2. I had strozzapreti for the first time in 1994 in my grandfather's town of Cattolica on the Romagna coast. I was absolutely blow away by them and couldn't find them in other parts of Italy. Except, they were definitely nothing like the recipe described above. Mine are more like a pasta with yeast. Take a kilo of 00 flour (or half cake, half AP), a teaspoon salt, one packet of yeast, a splash of olive oil and two eggs. Use the well method and bring everything together with a little water. Then let it rest for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight in the refrigerator. Then take an almond sized portion and roll it between your hands (or strangle the dough) until it resembles a small dowel. Boil and serve with a multitude of sauces. My favorite was with a simple gorgonzola sauce.

                                From what I've heard and read about strozzapreti, it originally came from Emilia-Romagna, but I can't guarantee my recipe was "the original." I only know that my recipe is used in my grandfather's town. It could have been named priest strangler/choker because it was commonly served to priests since it was inexpensive and one priest happened to choke on it. Or because one has to "strangle" the dough when making it. But more probable was that it is a politically fused dish. Romagna was land that was ruled directly by the popes for centuries. Of course, by the mid 19th century the issue of papal lands was quite a contentious one with the rise of nationalism. The ultra conservative policies by the questionable mandate of the pope didn't please the people too well either. This only helped the anticlerical and even socialist sentiments in the region. My grandfather's town, Cattolica, for instance, voted heavily for the Italian Communist Party after the Second World War and hammer and sickles adorned many buildings with pride into the 60s and 70s. I'm sure this solidified the name strozzapreti from any gentler name. Good Catholics they certainly were not! So the wives may have made the strozzapreti out of frugality, but the husbands wished the priests would simply choke on them. It's also fitting and natural the priests would choke because of their greed embodied in their uninhibited hunger.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bdoty

                                  Lidia Bastianich's version of strozzapreti has the long shape you describe.

                                2. As others have said, strozzapreti (aka strangolpreti and variations) are pasta. The name can be applied to a variety of handmade flour-and-water long and short shapes of many parts of Italy, but usually the parts corresponding roughly to the former Papal States (whence the anticlerical jibe of the name, which refers to the legendary gluttony of some priests). However, an 1821 text applies the name to something that sounds like gnudi, so it's not that simple -- especially since strozzapreti themselves derive from a sort of gnocco and in some parts of Italy gnocchi are essentially what are often called ombrichelli (which could also be strozzapreti), a sort of handmade spaghetti. (All this can be ferreted out of Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita.) What it comes down to is that very few pasta names belong to just one thing, but chefs, writers, cooking shows, etc., nowadays really ought to use the widely accepted terminology: strozzapreti are a flour-and-water pasta, and items that look like ravioli without the pasta are gnudi (especially in Tuscany) or gnocchi di ricotta (or whatever they are made of). Everyone should understand that the word gnocco, pl. gnocchi, has a bazillion meanings and they're here to stay.