Yesterday I interviewed my friend Lola about truffles, where they come from, how are they found, why they are so expensive and why they are a national cooking treasure. You can read about them at All About Truffles. As part of the interview, Lola offered up this wonderful recipe for Strozzapreti, Porcini, Zucca & Tartufo. I know what porcini mushrooms are and that tartufo is the Italian name for truffles but what about Strozzapreti and Zucca.
Strozzapreti & Zucca
After a quick search on the Internet I learned Strozzapreti is a type of pasta that is hand-rolled and looks like an elongated form of cavatelli. The word strozzapreti is Italian for “priest choker” and there are several stories as to how this pasta received this unfortunate name. They all seem to describe some sort of anger at the church for one reason or another by the people of Rome and Tuscany and in their frustration decided to give this pasta its origin.
The dough is made differently depending on where in Italy you are. Basically it is made with wheat flour, water, salt and eggs or egg whites although Parmesan cheese is often added in Emilia. There is also a baked pasta dish calle strozzapreti that consists of spinach that is combined with ricotta cheese and rolled into balls and baked.
Zucca is the Italian word for squash but it is also used for pumpkin as called for in this recipe. Lola says she like to make this dish when the colder weather rolls in.
Here’s a video I found that shows the technique for shaping the strozzapreti pasta as Lola describes.
1 small black truffle (if you can get your hands on the delicate white Alba variety, even better)
1 sprig of fresh sage
7 fl oz. whole milk
1/4 cup butter
Salt & pepper - to taste
How To Prepare At Home
For the Strozzapreti
Sift the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the salt and water and knead the dough until a thick lumpless ball forms, this should take no longer than 6 minutes, as over kneading will make the dough excessively hard. Divvy up the dough in apricot-size balls and separate them on your work surface (preferably wooden) dusted with more flour.
You can now proceed to shaping it into your strozzapreti. Roll the dough balls flat with a dusted rolling pin, to a 1/2 to 3/4 inch thickness. Fold the flattened dough over like a burrito and cut 1/2 inch slices. Undo the strands and flour them too to avoid stickage.
Now to obtain the typical strozzapreti shape, you have to take each individual strand and roll it between your palms. The result is a "˜rolled up towel' shape, one very suitable for virtually "grabbing" the sauce.
Dust a kitchen towel with flour and rest the strozzapreti on it for about 30 minutes before cooking.
For the Sauce
Clean the porcini by rubbing them gently with a damp cloth and chopping off the soiled part of the stems. Slice the larger ones and halve the smaller caps and stems. In a large enough skillet, sauté the pumpkin in butter and sage for 3 minutes, over vivacious heat. Add the milk, lower the heat and cook for 5 more minutes. Now add the chopped mushrooms, adjust seasoning and cook for 10 more minutes.
In the meantime bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil and cook the strozzapreti al dente (this will take a lot less time than regular dried pasta, so keep a close watch).
Drain the pasta and transfer it to the warm skillet where the sauce is, and blend well off the burner. Dish out and then sliver the tartufo wafers directly in the individual plates.
No Parmigiano this time, the tartufo would otherwise suffer.
A good wine for this cold weather extravaganza is a Colli del Trasimeno or any rosé that will allow the mixture of flavors to remain intact while sustaining the contrast between the pasta's tenacious nature and the sauce's velvety softness.
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