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Year 6 | Thursday 21 September 2017

Around the Boot in 80 Foods - Strangolapreti alla Trentina

21 June 2015

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For our first week in Trentino-Alto Adige, we have already discovered that the region is extremely mountainous and was once a poor area. For this reason, its traditional dishes were not sumptuous affairs using rare and expensive ingredients, but simple fare that made good use of what the area had to offer, or were a way to use food that was leftover, as the resourceful farmer's wives never wasted anything. The dish is question today is one such dish. It is, in fact, not only one of the most traditional dishes, but also probably one of the most famous dishes in the region. We are, of course, talking about Strangolapreti alla Trentina, and so first we must explain its rather morbid name.

The word Strangolapreti literally means "priest strangler", and strangely enough, Trentino-Alto Adige is not the only region to have a dish with such a name. In the regions of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Le Marche, Umbria and Abruzzo there is a pasta known as strozzapreti, or "priest choker".

The Trentino version differs, however, in that it is a type of gnocchi dish, rather than hand rolled pasta. Anyway, back to the name: it is thought that the dish has its origins around the time of the Council of Trent, just like Nosiola which we discovered yesterday, in the mid 1500s. At that time, as already stated, food for most people was scarce, but not for all. In those difficult times, it seems that priests always had their plates full, and so the Strangolapreti were prepared for when the priests visited their people of the parish with the hope that they would choke on the dish.

However, who can blame the priests for being so keen on such a dish? Although it is a simple dish, it is also very tasty, and has the sensation of being a very rich dish. At its base is stale bread, showing its humble origins. Such bread, although it could not be eaten as it was, was never thrown away, so instead it was thought to soften it, add spinach (or herbs) to give it an inviting green colour, and then boil like gnocchi. The finishing touch was some melted butter poured over these gnocchi and a small grating of cheese. Even after many centuries, the recipe remains very simple and most of the same ingredients are used, although some versions include other "greens" such as chard or nettles instead of the spinach.

Although we are dealing with a dish made of simple ingredients, the taste and flavour is quite complex and well-structured, especially when trying to pair with a wine. The Strangolapreti have a certain richness to them thanks to the butter added at the end, and there is also an almost slight sweetness to them due to the abundant use of bread. These two characteristics therefore must be counterbalanced by a wine which has a good acidity and a good sapitidy. One wine that could fit the bill is Nosiola, which has often been paired with Strangolapreti based on the traditions of the region.