Monday, December 18, 2006

Strozzapreti: Recipe

Special Guest blog by Jeff!

We had a delicious meal last night from a recipe out of a 1970s vegetarian Italian cookbook, authored by the incomparable Romagnolis, the currently out-of-print "Romagnoli's Meatless Cookbook,' about the little-studied, little-known segment of Italian vegetarian cooking called cucina di magro.

They call these "priest-chokers." They are little bite-sized balls made of a delicious ground-up mixture of swiss-chard, bread crumbs and parmesan. The story behind the name doesn't ring true to me: That the priests collected a "tax" from the peasants in the form of farm produce, and this pasta dish was so good the curate might well have choked on them, eating as the peasant's guest with such gusto. Yeah, right! I still think the "tax" part of the story might explain the "priest-choker" name for the dish.


2 pounds swiss chard, cooked in salted water about 5 minutes, drained, allowed to cool, squeezed dry and finely chopped/processed
1 cup toasted bread crumbs, finely processed
3/4-1 cup parmesan, grated

3 eggs, beaten (have more in reserve)

butter, ex virg olive oil, fresh sage and parmesan for top

1. Mix the cooked chard, bread crumbs and parmesan together and allow to sit for a few minutes.

2. Beat the eggs, salt and pepper in with a fork. The dough should be somewhat dry, but sticky enough to form cohesive balls that stay together when you roll them between your hands like meatballs.

3. Bring 4 quarts of water salted at 1 tsp/quart to a low boil/simmer, and test one cherry-sized strozzapreti ball for its stick-togetherness.

4. It will rise to the top after a while; allow it a few minutes at the top of the water before taking it out with a slotted spoon to tase-test. If it's done (and doesn't need more eggs/breadcrumbs to make it stick together) start rolling the dough into cherry-sized balls, about 16 each batch, waiting a few minutes after they rise to the top.

6. Transfer the pasta to a bowl that has however much melted butter, olive oil, sage, you would like, and stir in some more parmesan when they are all done. Andrew keeps the bowl in a heated oven at 200F while we're cooking and transfers and mixes each batch in the butter as they get done. Top with parmesan when they're all done and serve.


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