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Strozzapreti, or priest choker, is a hand rolled Italian pasta variety with its origins in the Romagna and Tuscany areas. Made from a plain pasta dough, strozzapreti is formed by rolling small rectangles of flat dough into tight coils resembling a scarf or towel. The dough used to make the pasta is generally a standard unbleached flour, water, and salt mixture which may, depending on the chef, include eggs. Strozzapreti is usually served with a meat ragout or a tomato based sauce. The name is also used occasionally to describe gnocchi, i.e., traditional Italian vegetable and ricotta cheese dumplings.
Legends abound regarding the exact origins of the somewhat sinister priest choking strozzapreti name. Some believe it refers to the delectable nature of the pasta which could even cause priests to gorge themselves to the point of choking. Others think it may have something to do with the choking motion used to roll the strips of dough to form the characteristic spirals. Whatever its origins, the name has stuck, and along with the other forms of cavatelli, or hand rolled pasta, strozzapreti remains very popular. The pasta is either made fresh or available dried and is cooked in boiling water with a little salt and oil until al dente or just soft.
The traditional dough used to make strozzapreti is a simple pasta base consisting of durum wheat flour, water and salt. Some chefs include Parmesan cheese or 2 eggs per cup of flour, but these are optional. Once formed, the dough is rolled out to its desired thickness and then cut into strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. These strips are then rolled between the palms until they form a tight spiral resembling a rolled-up towel or scarf. The spiral strips are cut or pinched into 4 inch (10 cm) lengths to form the characteristic strozzapreti pasta pieces.
The cooked pasta is typically served with a ragout made of ground beef or pork sausage, onion, garlic, fresh and pureed tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, red wine, herbs, and spices. Traditional tomato-based sauces are also a popular topping for the pasta although any rich, piquant sauce with lots of garlic works well. The name strozzapreti is also sometimes used when referring to gnocchi, a traditional Italian dumpling made with vegetables such as chards or spinnach mixed with ricotta cheese. These dumplings are usually large enough to choke on if they are eaten with a little too much gusto which may be an alternate source of the rather dark name.
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