Yesterday I had some broccoli that called my name out as I passed it on my way to bake some bread. It persuasively let me know that if I didn't cook it immediately it was going to go all soft on me and it's fresh solid firmness would be lost. I saw this recipe done on one of the local daily cooking shows, La Prova del Cuoco and had been wanting to try it. I rose to the occasion and whipped out some simple pasta to go along with the insistent broccoli. I married up the two of them with some soft stracchino cheese and lunch was done in nothing flat.
The hand rolled pasta I made is called Strozzaptreti and hails from the Emilia-Romagna region. Strozzapreti or priest stranglers? Humm, intriguing name for a pasta shape indeed. There are a few theories about how this pasta received its name and all seem to be on the anti clerical theme. According to Wikipedia, one story goes that the gluttonous priests ate too quickly and choked on the pasta. Another purports that the farmer's wives would make Strozzapreti for the clergy in partial payment for their land rents, infuriating the farmers so, that they wished they would choke on the pasta. Either way, it seems the priests were none too revered. Lucky for us these are easy to make, as you don't need to be too fussed about their shape as they are rustic and hearty. They seem to disappear quickly when paired with the broccoli and cheese and their lumpy character goes well with sturdy broccoli. The dough is water and flour rubbed together to form medium rolled strands that are cooked with the broccoli and finished off with the cheese. I didn't have taleggio, which is a mild soft cheese that melts easily. I used another even milder cheese, stracchino that I think next time I would add some Parmesan and or gorgonzola to kick up the flavor profile just a bit. Either way, I didn't use as much of the cheese as called for as I wanted the broccoli to shine through and I think that was just about right for me. You be the judge for your taste buds. If you are not of a mind to make pasta, use a fresh or dry pasta of your choice. Whatever you do, make sure to give it a go for a simple and satisfying dish that's sure to please.
Strozzapreti Broccoli e Taleggio
(Priest Stranglers with Broccoli and cheese)
For the pasta:
- 400g/ 4c/14oz flour, all purpose
- 200g/ 3/4c/ 7 oz, cool water
For the rest:
- 1 shallot, diced or 1/2 red onion if you don't have a shallot,
- 500g/ 1# broccoli, peel stems and cut into 2cm/1 in pieces. I sliced some of the larger florets in half
- 200g/ 7oz, Taleggio, small cubes or any soft cheese of your preference. I used stacchino. Next time I would add a little gorgonzola cheese
- 50g/ 1/4c Parmesan
- Olive oil
Mix the water and flour and pull together to make a soft but firm dough. Knead a few minutes till smooth and pliable, dusting generously with flour if needed. Cover in a bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough relax for 15 minutes. The rest gives the flour time to absorb the water properly.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a rectangle to a thickness of about 3mm/1/4 in.
Cut the dough into long strips across the shorter end.
Take each strip and rub the lengths of dough together between your palms in a quick rolling motion to get a rolled length that you pinch off into comfortable lengths. Continue till you finish all the dough. I cut a few strips at a time so they don't dry out too much while I am rubbing them into strips. Sprinkled or flour generously a wooden board or trays and lay your pasta out in a single layer. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta as well, to keep them form sticking together. Set aside while you finish the rest of the dish.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
You can prep your vegetables and cheese now.
Begin to heat a large sauce pan or skillet with tall sides.
Add a bit of olive oil and your shallot or onion and let it gently cook.
Once your pot is at a rolling boil, drop the broccoli and cook until the broccoli is bright green and tender but still firm. That is how I like it. You can cook it further to your taste, if you like.
I removed the broccoli because I didn't want to over cook it and added it to the olive oil and onion.
Other wise add the pasta to the broccoli and cook until the pasta is cooked al dente. The timing will depend on how thick your strips are. Usually fresh pasta only takes a few minutes. Do test a thick piece as it can be quite doughy if under cooked.
Add your drained pasta ad broccoli to the pan with the shallot.
Add your soft cheese and mix to blend and melt the soft cheese. Adjust your seasoning and turn your heat on or off depending ont if the cheese is melting or not.
Serve immediately, stirring in the parmesan at the last moment or sprinkling it over the top when served. A grind of fresh black pepper is a nice finishing touch as well.