Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Pasta to Die For!

Strozzapreti di Farina di Ceci con Cime di Rapa & Ricotta Salata
Hand Made Strozzapreti from Chickpea Flour with Cime di Rapa & Salted Ricotta

You have got to love the name "Strozzapreti", which translates as "priest strangler"... well- at least I do! legend has it, that an angry nun created this pasta to satisfy the ravenous hunger of the priest she was cooking for, who never seemed to be able to eat his fill and who constantly complained about the food. The indignant nun invented this twisted, slightly thicker pasta in the hopes that he would literally choke on it! Too bad for her that it ended up being so delicious, that not only the priest, but also the rest of all of us enjoyed it even more!

This evening I wanted to attempt to make my own strozzapreti, which I myself have only ever eaten 3-4 times... and yes I have lived to tell the tale! And a tasty tale it is too! But as usual, I decided to do something a little different and to bring my own little twist into it... and to make MY strozzapreti out of chickpea flour.... yum!

To make the pasta dough for this nice, single portion, I used a half teacup of chickpea flour, a half teacup of regular white flour and 1 egg. I sifted the 2 types of flour together into a bowl, made a well in the middle, cracked an egg into it and began to pinch flour into the egg little by little, drawing it in from the outside edges of the bowl. Try to do this with one hand if you can... as it will be rather sticky and you will need a clean hand to add a little more flour as necessary, so as to get the dough un-stuck from your fingers, so that you can begin to knead it. 

I kneaded the dough with the palm of my hand, flattening it, folding it over and flattening it again and again until it became a nice, smooth ball. I then let the dough rest for 10 minutes or so, before splitting it into 6-7 small pieces.

I rolled out the pieces of dough into long, thin lengths, about the thickness of a drinking straw, as you can see in the photos... very easy stuff. I then cut the long rolls into short lengths of 2-3 inches... and that was where the fun began!

Taking a wooden skewer, I carefully rolled the dough gently around it, then lay this onto my work surface and rolled the small pasta strip out flat. It probably looks a lot more complicated to make than it was! Just a little gently pressure will squash the round pasta flat and the revolving at an angle forms the strips into these pasta twists- which easily slide off the pasta and just need to dry out a little... easy!

Whilst the pasta was drying, I started preparing the cime de rapa, by chopping up the leaves finely and simmering them in a little salted water, with some finely chopped onion and garlic, which flavored and enhanced it's slightly bitter taste wonderfully. I allowed it to sit and cook away for 10-15 minutes. The cime may be good after 6-7 minutes, but it works much, much better in this dish if it is slightly
"over-cooked", as it gives a smoother and milder flavor.

Whilst the cime were bubbling away, I set a sauce pan on the stovetop for the pasta and as soon as the water was boiling, I gently dropped it in and let it cook for 3-4 minutes until it came floating up to the surface. As soon as it was done and was floating there, I removed it with a slotted spoon and dropped it into chilled water to keep it from continuing to cook in the residual heat.

After 15 minutes of simmering away, I carefully poured off the excess liquid from the cime, leaving them in a saucepan with enough water to cover the base. I took the pasta and added it to the greens, stirring it it gently so as not to damage them.  I added salt, pepper, a little nutmeg and a good drizzle of olive oil and stirred it through until it was nicely and equally distributed- and it was now almost ready to serve!

A last sprinkle of ricotta, a last drizzle of oil and a last dash of nutmeg made it all completely and absolutely perfect in my eyes... oh- and on my tongue too! Oh- I take it back... almost absolutely perfect- except that some hot chili flakes really went to make the experience better still! Now it was finally unbeatable!

I chose to prepare the strozzapreti this way, as a pasta asciutta, but this is a pasta shape that is wonderful for serving with a tomato sauce or ragĂș. It takes up so much sauce in its little twists that it becomes a real treat! 

Whichever way you choose to enjoy them and whether you use chickpea flour or regular flour is all up to you- I just hope you try out making this for yourselves and have as much fun doing so as I did! And somehow I think that you will!

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