Pasta with Pork Ragu; or how to piss off two gods with one bowl, Part I

Strozzapretiragu

After the holidays indulgences, I’m sure I’m not the only one craving something homey and comforting.  And after all the religious pomp and circumstances we were exposed to -voluntarily or not- during that time, I guess I’m also not the only one with a hankering for a little rebellion.  That’s when an idea struck me.  I knew just what I wanted to eat, Strozzapreti pasta.

Strozzapreti pasta is a traditional pasta shape from the Romagna region of Italy.  The Italian name is literally priest-chokers in English.  Legend has it that this particular shape, sort of resembling a short, twisted bit of rope, signified a religious rebellion in the region long suffered under Papal rule (from the 13th all the way to 19th century).  Romagna housewives would cook this pasta for the local priests, in hope that they would choke to death as they scoffed it down greedily.  A heretic pasta for my very own post-holidays rebellion, how perfect!  To go with this pasta I made a ragu.  You don’t have to be Italian to find ragu homey, yes?  This time my ragu would be made of pork, because why offend only one religion when you can easily do two (or three, actually)?

So that’s what I had for dinner, a heretic pasta in a haram (or trefah) ragu.  I must admit, however, that my rebellion was rather short-lived.  It took me and two dear friends and neighbours Katy and Beccy nearly half an hour to roll just enough for the three of us for dinner -those Romagna housewives were seriously vindictive- so we abandoned our hell-bound operation and turned the rest of the dough into Pici pasta, which are basically long, hand-rolled strips of slightly uneven thickness.  The Pici are rustic and toothsome, not to mention much easier to deal with than Strozzapreti.

I couldn’t find a good recipe for Strozzapreti online, so I grabbed my well-loved copy of Cooking by Hand to see what recipe I could adapt for it.  I found the recipe for Pici, which was described as a “fat, hand-formed pasta from the countryside surrounding Siena.”  Since both Pici and Strozzapreti are hand-rolled, and Paul (as in Bertoli, the author) described this dough from this recipe as being a little bit softer, easier for hand-rolling, with a little olive oil to guard against sticking, it sounded just perfect for what I needed.

If you’ve never made homemade pasta, I highly recommend this recipe.  You won’t need specialty flour or equipment to make it. Trust me, it’s really easier than you think.

Here’s Paul Bertoli’s recipe for Pici

  • 12oz (about 4 cups) “Baker’s Choice” flour, which is basically AP flour with a bit higher portein level.  I used King Arthur AP flour
  • 7oz (about 7/8 cup) cool water
  • 3 1/2 tsp olive oil

The recipe, like many rustic pasta recipes, calls for putting the flour right on the countertop or pastry board, then make a well in the center and pour the wet ingredients into it, then, it suggests using a fork to slowly incorporating the liquid and the flour together.  I strongly warn all but those with the dexterity of a monkey on crack against this method.  The “well” wall will inevitably break, sending floury, sticky water streaming outwards and downwards like room-temperature lava stream.

Mixdough_3

What I suggest instead is measure your ingredients into a medium size bowl, then, with a fork, stir the ingredients together.  You’ll end up with a moist, lumpy, somewhat separated globs of incorporated dry and wet ingredients, which can be dumped onto the countertop without creating a mess.  Work that dough a little, to get them to be a more or less cohesive dough.  Don’t worry about kneading or making a smooth dough right now, just wrap it with some plastic and let rest for half and hour.  This is to let the flour absorb the moisture completely before you knead and roll.

Kneadingdough

After half an hour, unwrap the dough onto a well-floured board.  Wash your hands in cold tap water, dry them thoroughly, dip them into your flour container to coat with flour. Knead the dough, pressing the base of your palm into the dough, pushing forward a little, then fold the dough into itself and again push down and forward with your hand.  Make sure the board and your hands are always well-floured to prevent sticking.  Do it until you get a smooth, soft lump of dough.  This shouldn’t take that much time at all.

Rolling

To roll into Strozzapreti shape, cut the dough into 8 pieces and roll each out thin, cut into about 3/4 inch wide and 3-4 inches long strips.  Pick up each one and fold into half lengthwise, the roll gently between your hands to make a folded, slightly twisted piece of pasta.  Place them on a well-floured cookie sheet, making sure they are not touching each other because they will stick badly.

Rollingpici

To roll into Pici, just cut out a small piece and stretch and roll it into long strips.  Come on, we’ve all played with playdoh, I don’t really need to teach you how to roll a dough into long strips, do it?  Anyway, see the picture above for what it’s supposed to look like.

If you plan to cook the pasta right away, make sure you cover the cookie sheets with kitchen towel (yes, well-floured to prevent sticking).  If not, the pasta will be dry in places, which will make them cook unevenly.  If you intend to make a large amount of past and will have enough time (at least overnight) to let the pasta dry thoroughly before you cook them, then don’t bother with the towel.

Part II

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  • http://www.cookingwiththejoneses.com lesley

    This is such a nice change to all the pomp & circumstance of Christmas! Love the story!
    Lesley

  • http://www.myayala.com/shop/categs.asp?categ_id=5 buy food philippines

    Thanks for the tips,pasta is one of my favorite food and i really appreciate your blog,so true thank you.
    by:vee

  • http://lizzieeatslondon.blogspot.com/ Lizzie

    Perfect – I’ve always wanted to make pasta but have never been dedicated enough to buy a pasta machine.

  • http://whatilikenyc.blogspot.com Laura

    I can’t believe you’re making us wait a whole day for the ragu! This is definitely going to be my dinner on Friday. Perfect end of the week comfort food.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/DanaMcCauley/ Dana McCauley

    Great looking homemade pasta – I love those kind of comforting, saucy concoctions.
    Our go to it comfort food is double cheddar mac and cheese. I always use dry macaroni since you need the body of the noodles to hold up the cheesy sauce.
    If you feel like pissing off just your cardiologist, give it a try!
    http://danamccauley.wordpress.com/2008/01/16/the-ultimate-comfort-food

  • http://bring-your-appetite.blogspot.com Jessica D

    I love your idea for rebellious pasta! The history lesson was great too; food always seems to taste better when there’s a story behind it.
    I’ve tried several different recipes and methods for pasta making, and always find I have the most success when I use durum wheat flour. Do you have a personal preference?

  • http://foodeatenlifelived.blogspot.com Lainey

    Thank you so much for the handy photos. Whenever I make pasta I always get super nervous when it doesn’t look like a beautiful ball of dough right away.

  • http://mattatouille.blogspot.com mattatouille

    beautiful photos. i’ve love to make this dish sometime.

  • Katie

    I love this post for so many reasons…and I’ve been looking for a good pasta dough recipe!

  • http://www.SeattleSoupLine.blogspot.com Jenifer

    I’m with Laura. Bring on the ragu recipe! I just scored a pile of pork tenderloin at Costco and I’m looking for new recipes. Last nights pork tacos with mango salsa and crispy slaw was delicious. Hard to eat just one.

  • http://hmmfoodgood.blogspot.com oakley

    Ra-gu! Ra-gu! Ra-gu! Ra-gu!
    I had a superbly addictive pheasant ragu at Drago Centro the other day. I hope to fix that with your version of a pork ragu I can make at home. :)

  • stella

    This reminds me of spatzle (german homemade noodles) – I actually have a handy dandy press that I bought in Germany that feeds the dough through in a similar shape. The dough is a little more sticky though and you cook them immediately in hot boiling water. Yum. Can’t wait for the pork ragu recipe; I usually make spatzle with a goulash but pork ragu will do.

  • http://winefoodandbeyond.blogspot.com/ Wolfy

    Nice story and recipe, but, being Italian, I’d like to point out a couple of inaccuracies :-)
    1. Italy is a relatively recent country and, despite being smaller than most states in the US, it’s still divided by lots of different cultures, and different cuisines. In spite of what foreigners think, there is no Italian cuisine, there are a lot of them! “Strozzapreti” is a word used in different regions and can mean different things. Actually, in Emilia Romagna it’s almost synonymous with small hand-made pasta and can have different sizes and shapes.
    2. In Italy, we almost universally use durum semolina to make pasta. That, along with short boiling, makes the perfect “al dente” cooking. (There are exceptions, of course).
    3. There’s more than the pasta recipe to prepare a pasta dish. The quantity and quality of water, salt and the length of boiling are as important as the pasta is. My foreign friends usually use too little water (with too much chlorine!) and salt and cook the pasta for too long.
    That said, I won’t argue with anyone for doing differently: if you like it in a different way, enjoy it!

  • Nadia

    Thanks for the tips ya. I heart pasta! All the pictures in your blogs look so irresistible!I want to be a famous cook one day so i can cook for my grandmother!

  • http://kero8.deviantart.com Kero

    Oh my goodness, heretic pasta? I love it! Now I really want to make some… maybe this weekend, seeing as it’ll take a long time to produce enough to feed my whole family. It all looks so yummy, though…

  • http://doghillkitchen.blogspot.com Maggie

    The facts are great and I really want to try the olive oil based pasta, I’ve only made egg based.

  • http://domstol.ru Margarita

    Very intresting! Hello from russia

  • http://onceuponafeast.blogspot.com Ruth

    Great post and fantastic tutorial. I’ll be linking here from Presto Pasta Nights to spread your word.

  • http://www.divinacucina.com Diva

    Pim,
    As the person mentioned above, each region has their own version of strozzapreti! from gnocchi to pasta.
    I have seen a great trick for forming your strozzapreti, the pasta strips are rolled around the wire part off of an umbrella… the little thins square wires.
    Creative Italians! recycling for kitchen tools!
    the strips are rolled around the wire and the wire is then slipped out.
    In the south this shape is called cavatelli, I had them for lunch today with my left-over sauce from my sicilian involtini, on the blog!

  • indiestar

    Ragu recipe please – it looks DELISH!!!

  • KN

    Pim you’re a tease! It’s cruel to lead us on with the pasta then leave us hanging for the ragu.

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com/ pigpigscorner

    Nice tutorial! Looks really delicious!

  • http://marisblogs.wordpress.com maris

    I can’t wait to try making pasta! I just got a KA and a pasta attachment will be my next big venture. This looks better than something you’d get at a restaurant.

  • http://kitchensidecar.blogspot.com katie

    Um, yes. yes yes yes. I tried to make handmade pasta before too. ravioli. pasta dough is not for the faint of heart nor for priests apparently.
    crafty housewives…
    i wanna make the ragu. i’ve been ruminating about ragu recently– but duck. maybe I can do a bait and switch with your recipe. look forward to it.

  • Simona

    Hi I’m Italian and I have some knowledge about pasta. I don’t agree about the way of kneading that Pim prefer , but it’s true that is not easy if you never saw the correct way.
    When I visit a foreign cooking blog for the first time I search an Italian recipe, in this way I understand if the blogger is a good cooker or not!
    So Pim , very good tutorial!

  • http://www.swirlingnotions.com swirlingnotions

    This brings back memories . . . I learned how to make pici in southern Tuscany while doing reserach for an article called Belly Buttons and Priest Stranglers, on regional Italian pastas. Mmmmm–I’ll have to get out my pasta board again!

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    I think that these mushrooms would be a great addition to my mushroom collection.

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    Mangosteen is my favorite childhood fruit. Can’t find any fresh ones when I moved to US. Can’t wait to let my toddler taste the Pear Mangosteen cottage cheese.

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