what to do with priest chokers

If you have a bunch of priest chokers on your hands, the best way to deal with them is a boiling water bath for probably at least eight minutes. I’m talking about strozzapreti of course! I hope no one found this website looking for a religious debate!

No one really knows why this kind of twisty pasta is known as “priest choker” in Italian. Some conjecture that priests used to eat so much of them, they’d choke. Since priests were thought of a somewhat gluttonous (especially in areas where they owned lots of land that they rented steeply to farmers) this might not be an incorrect etymology, but no one knows for sure.

While I have certainly never choked on strozzapreti, I have scarfed it down at an impressive speed. And having recently acquired some from my neighborhood pasta store, Raffeto’s, I was more than happy to make some for dinner last night.

First, a word on Raffeto’s: this store is fantastic. It’s located on Houston street, and they make their own fresh pasta. They also have dry pasta, which the strozzapreti is, for a dollar or two a pound. I often go there to buy fresh pasta because you can get it ridiculously cheap and customize by cut and ingredients (including but not limited to saffron, whole wheat and squid ink) as well as great ravioli.

Someday I’d like to try my hand at making strozzapreti, but until then, there’s Raffeto’s, which apparently also provides pasta to hundreds of New York eateries.

I decided to use this pasta with a variation of this NYTimes recipe that Max was intrigued by. The sauce is tomato based, with olives and sausage playing key roles. We decided to change a few things, and were quite pleased with the results. So here’s what we did:

Strozzapreti al Mediterraneo for 2*

Time: about a half hour

1/2 lb strozzapreti

1 1/2 cups Pomi chopped tomatoes; if you using fresh, at least 3 cups

1/4 cup pitted olives, slivered or chopped (about 7). If they are very salty, rinse them.

1 large sweet (or spicy, if you prefer) Italian sausage, casing removed (We got ours from the butcher at Whole Foods)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 spring of rosemary, minced

3-4 dry bay leaves

about 2 ounces feta cheese (optional) or pecorino romano (optional, and could be too salty for this dish, depending on your sausage)

Start the water boiling and add a handful of salt. Cut off the tip of your sausage, and start squeezing the insides out of the casing, into a pan. Never done this before? It’s easy, and pictured to the right. After you have squeezed all the meat out of the casing, use a wooden spoon to separate large chunks, so it will cook evenly. Cook over medium heat until the sausage is browned all over, about five minutes. Turn down the heat a smidge, and add the garlic. If for some strange reason the pan isn’t coated with rendered sausage fat, add a table spoon of olive oil. After about a minute, add in the rosemary, tomato, bay leaves and olives. If you are the kind of person that can’t get enough heat, add some a couple pinches of red pepper flakes at this point, too. I personally can’t stand spicy food–I feel like you can’t taste anything but pain.

Cook  at low heat until the pasta is ready. You want the strozzapreti to be al dente when you drain it, so take care to start testing it around minute 8. Once it’s done, pour a little pasta water into the sauce, it’ll help bring it together. By a little, I mean about a quarter cup.

After draining the pasta, don’t rinse it off (rule of thumb), and just throw it right in the pan you’ve been cooking the sauce in and combine. After mixing it thoroughly, add cheese and serve.

Max and I were both very happy with how this sauce came together. It was very cohesive, and the strozzapreti are the perfect shape to just sop it all up with. If there had been any extra sauce, I’d have been scraping my plate with a slice of bread!

*A note on portion size. I eat a medium amount and Max usually eats A LOT, so depending on what kind of people you are serving, adjust the recipe a tad. For the two of us, there was not even a BITE leftover, though we were both pretty full!


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