Sunday, October 25, 2009

Choke the Priest

Strozzapreti--choke the priest. But not literally. It's a type of pasta. Written about in loving detail in the Encyclopedia of Pasta, by Oretta Zanini de Vita (what a name). I saw this recipe in the Dining section of the New York Times--which comes out every Wednesday, I get giddy on Wednesdays--and decided to make a go of it.
I have never made pasta. I actually don't eat that much pasta. Micael was born in Italy and he has never made pasta. It's about time we try this out--I probably will like to eat pasta more when it's made with fresh eggs and flour, and especially when it has a name like choke the priest. (thanks to Rafaella for the translation-you weren't messing with us, were you??)

We decided friday night was a good time. Well, really we had nothing to do on a friday night, and so we decided that that was the best thing we could do--not like we set aside friday nights to make pasta or anything. We bought plum tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and pecorino cheese for the sauce, and had some farm eggs and flour for the pasta. The recipe calls for cutting the tomatoes in half, shaking them with olive oil and garlic and roasting them in a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes. Meanwhile we chopped up basil, garlic and pecorino cheese in a miniature food processor and started in on the pasta. I have to admit--I'm intimidated. I've always heard pasta is challenging, time-consuming, and you probably need to have Italy running through your blood to really get it right. In fact, Oretta learned how to make pasta in her convent school as she was growing up. The Sisters would tell them that their tortellini dough was only thin enough when they could hold it up and see through it to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, out the window. Now that's pressure.

So I make a pile with my flour, carve out a space in the middle and crack 3 eggs into it (I added to the recipe so we could have more pasta). I start folding the flour into the eggs, which then run off the side of the cutting board/rudimentary pasta-making board, and must scoop/scrape them back in while trying to keep more of the pas te on the board than attached to my hands. This stuff is sticky. The recipe seems to recommend avoiding extra flour, but the dough is so sticky, I can't get it off my hands, much less roll it out. I add more. Then roll it out using a jar, because our kitchen is still too basic to have a rolling pin, and jars are much more fun anyway, and then cut into strips, roll the strips around a bamboo skewer and voila! pasta. Ok, it wasn't so voila-ish . The pasta kept sticking and I had to use a lot of extra flour, which meant it wouldn't stick to my hands or to the skewer, but then it wouldn't stick to itself, either, which means it wouldn't form the nice rings that I saw in the picture. I got close enough and then scooped all the semi-deformed rings into boiling water, let them cook for a few minutes and voila! cooked blob-like strozzapreti!

We mash the roasted tomato, basil, garlic, pecorino, olive oil combo onto the pasta and wow...mmm. good. The pasta could definitely be thinnier, but it was still really tasty-chewy and fresh, and the sauce was incredible. I could eat the sauce on anything. The best part is that it took us a total of 45 minutes--total--and was really inexpensive.
So, looks like I'm going to have to keep trying this one until I get my strozzapreti dough so thin I can see through it to the apartment complex parking lot out the window :)

ps. My only caveat with this recipe is that the flour we buy at the grocery store is typically not very fresh because ground flour goes
rancid very quickly--I never knew this before. So, the best thing to do is soak grains yourself and then grind them up fresh for flour whenever you need to use it in a recipe. I'm working up to this myself--I'll need to get a grain mill, whatever that is--and I'll start writing about it as soon as I can figure it out!

1 comment:

jenn said...

YUM. That pasta sounds incredible - nice work!