Would you like to strangle a priest?
No, I am not getting crazy. Continue to read to understand why I asked you this question.
In our #FoodIS tour along Italy, every week we discover how to make a famous regional dish and not only. We talked about pizza and when Pizza Margherita was really born or why Risotto alla milanese is yellow. We moved to central Italy to eat a piece of Vincisgrassi, then southwards to smell a delicious Parmigiana di melanzane and then up to the north again to taste Risi e bisi, typical of the Veneto region.
Today we are in Umbria because I’d like to tell you about Strangozzi alla spoletina and why I want to strangle a priest.
I had a chance to eat the original Strangozzi alla spoletina when I was in Umbria 2 years ago for Frantoi aperti (i.e. Open olive mills). If you would like to read about this experience, click here. An in-home chef prepared homemade strangozzi to delight our palates. And he succeeded!
Strangozzi is the most ancient variety of pasta prepared in Umbria. The name changes depending on the area you are in. In Perugia they are called Umbricelli while in Terni Ciriole. If you move to Lake Trasimeno you will eat Anguillette, while in Orvieto they are called Manfricoli. In July there is a country festival dedicated to Strangozzi in Montefalco.
It is not the first time we talk about Umbrian food on our blog. Here are 2 examples:
Where is Spoleto?
Spoleto is the most beautiful discovery I ever did in Italy (Herman Hesse)
This is what the German writer wrote to his wife on a postcard. Spoleto is one of the renowned destinations in Umbria because of its centre rich in Medieval buildings.
When I was there I saw the Ponte delle Torri (i.e. Towers’ bridge). It’s an incredibly high bridge probably built by the Romans. It represents one of the symbols of Spoleto. It is 230 meters long and 80 meters high. Well, if you suffer from vertigo, you have to keep away from that bridge. Its height is really impressive, but from there you can enjoy a wonderful panorama overlooking the Umbra valley.
I suggest you to visit the town and all the little places near it, like the Fonti del Clitunno (Clitunno’s springs).
What are Strangozzi?
We have started to use the hashtag #Notonlyspaghetti to let you understand that we don’t eat only pasta and that there are many kind of pasta (not only spaghetti!). In this case we are talking about a kind of pasta very similar to spaghetti, but thicker.
They are one of the hundreds of Italian recipes coming from our agricultural past. You have to consider that until the ’50s Italy was full of poor families and their main profit came from selling the harvesting.
Also the sauces are very simple. You can eat Strangozzi with hot tomato sauce, black truffle or mushrooms: all products of the land. For example truffles were used during feast days like Christmas, unlike today
Strangozzi need to be handmade. When you spread out the dough, it has to be about 2 millimeters thick. Then the puff pastry is cut into 3/4 mm wide and 30 cm long stripes. You can buy handmade dried Strangozzi in shops only in Umbria. But in the close areas, like Toscana, Marche or Lazio, you will find similar kinds of pasta.
The origin of Strangozzi
There are a lot of legends around the origin of this kind of pasta. Do you remember when I asked to you if you would strangle a priest? Now you are going to discover why.
A theory about this particular name is that it reminds of the shoelaces. In fact the etymology is connected with this word. Stringa in Italian means shoelace.
If you are wondering when this regional dish was born, you have to go back until Frederik Barbarossa. He stopped at Pissignano Castle in Campello Alto, between Foligno and Spoleto, above the Clitunno’s springs. His aim was to destroy Spoleto. Probably the female cook in the castle prepared to him delicious strangozzi so that Frederick changed his plan. Obviously this is a legend.
Umbria is a land of Saints, but there was also the strong desire to overthrown the Pope. In fact Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Toscana were under the Pope control in the Middle Ages. Another legend about the name of this Umbrian pasta comes from this period. The shoelaces were used by insurgents to strangle the priests after they lied in wait for them.
There is a third legend told in northern Umbria. Strangozzi were prepared by housewives when they had no more eggs because the priest took them all away. Therefore women kneading the dough cursed against the priest so that he could choke (or strangle) while he was eating the eggs their family couldn’t eat. Don’t confuse Strangozzi with Strozzapreti!
How to prepare Strangozzi?
The dough of Strangozzi is made only of soft wheat flour, water and salt. Nothing else!
Once housewives didn’t use the salt. Why? Because in the 16th century the Pope established a tax on the salt to increase the Papal States revenue financing its wars. Umbrians didn’t want to be subjected to other taxes and they decided to use no more salt. That’s why today the bread is without salt in Umbria and in other areas of central Italy.
In other kinds of handmade pasta we often use eggs. Tortellini is an example. But in Umbrian dishes you will rarely find eggs in the recipes because eggs represented a commodity in the past. They were used only during Christmas and Easter or to celebrate San Antonio abate, San Giuseppe and the harvesting.
The secret to prepare perfect Strangozzi is the ‘culu mossu‘ (moving ass). It means that when you knead the dough you have to constantly move your hips. Then you cook them in abundant salted water avoiding to stir in the first 2/3 minutes because you can break the pasta.
Are you ready to cook Strangozzi? Subscribe to the #FoodIS newsletter and download the recipe.