Flipping through the final issue of ‘La Cucina Italiana’, I stumbled across a fun fact. They showed a recipe for making strangolapreti or strozzapreti from scratch and in the side bar explained that stragolapreti translates in Italian to ‘priest stranglers’. Supposedly, the weight and shape of the pasta “were thought to be too tough for the delicate palates of the priests, who might choke on them”, the article read.
Having grown up going to Catholic school, I encountered lots of priests in my time and I can’t say that I would describe any of them as having been ‘delicate’! Voracious eaters I can see but delicate, no.
Intrigued by the snippet and their recipe, I decided to make the Sauté di Strangolapreti e Funghi Misti from the magazine but without making the pasta from scratch. Strozzapreti is one of our favorite pastas so there was a bag of our favorite brand, Montebello, in the pantry.
Montebello pasta is manufactured in the Marche region of Italy by a conglomerate of organic farmers. In 2007, they refurbished a portion of the Monastero di Montebello to serve as the headquarters for the Agricultural Cooperative Black Elk and the Center for Studies of the Association for Organic Agriculture and Marche Agriturismo.
The Monastero di Montebello is located outside of Urbino, Italy and it was founded in 1380. It stood (albeit remodeled a few times) and functioned as the center for the Congregation of the Poor Hermits of St Jerome until it was expropriated by the unification of Italy in the 1800s. Essentially, the unification was the period in Italian history when the various states – Sicily, Lombardy, Tuscany, Venetia, Modena, Marche, etc. – were agglomerated. Regional cultures and political systems were sacrificed to create the larger kingdom of Italy.
Until today, I just thought that was an interesting bit of history but now it seems so ironic. These priests were evicted from their monastery and shut down as a result of the revolution. You could say their way of life was strangled by the unification and yet today their very monastery is used to produce ‘priest stranglers’ for the world to enjoy. I know we certainly do!