Strangozzi con Guanciale e Asparagi

Strangozzi pasta (handmade) with guanciale & asparagus

This dish combines the classic handmade pasta of Umbria, "strangozzi" with traditional food products of the region, guanciale and asparagus.  Strangozzi pasta is sort of like a thicker version of spaghetti-- it's long, irregular and hand rolled.  The dough of "strangozzi" is made only of flour, water, salt and a little olive oil.... and nothing else!  No eggs!  First thing Tommaso and I thought when we had this pasta was "Oh!  This is basically "pinci" (or also called "pici") pasta like in Tuscany!!"  Basically, it is the same (haha), except it has its own name and story in Umbria.  This is very typical of Italians.  You will find similarities among dishes from region to region, but each one will claim ownership and they all have their own story to tell.  Kind of like "pinci"/"pici" pasta in Tuscany, "strangozzi" also has a few different names depending on the part of the region where it's made.  You can find it called "stringozzi", "strengozzi" or "strongozzi", and sometimes "strozzapreti" or "strangolapreti".  In Perugia its called "umbricelli", in Terni it's called "ciriole" and in Orvieto it's called "manfricoli"....... is your head spinning yet??  Because ours sure is!!  The word "strangozzi" is derived from the verb "strangolare", which means "to strangle" in Italian and also "stringhe" which means "strings" (or shoelaces).  There are many legends around the origin of this kind of pasta.  One legend has it that in Umbria, during the rule of the Papacy, people literally attacked the clergy in the streets and tried to strangle them with their shoelaces. I've also heard stories of how this was the pasta served to the parish priests when they dined at the homes of the parishoners.  They would serve the priests large quantities of strangozzi to strangle their appetite.  A third legend told in northern Umbria is that "strangozzi" were prepared by housewives that had no more eggs because the priests 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!  Of course, these explanations can be taken with a grain of salt... it's likely that this pasta simply gets its name because of their resemblance to shoelaces, but regardless, we like to believe the legends because they are far more fun :-)

Total time: 2 hours

Prep time:  1 hour & 45 minutes

Cooking time:  20 minutes

Serves 4

 

What you'll need:

For the "strangozzi" pasta dough:

  • 2 cups flour

  • 3/4 cup semolina flour

  • Warm water

  • EVOO

  • Salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 small bunch asparagus (~10 pieces)

  • Guanciale (or substitute with pancetta if you can't find guanciale)

  • 1 clove garlic

  • EVOO

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Directions:

Start by making the "strangozzi" pasta dough.

 

1.  Make a mountain of flour.  Hollow out a crater or well in the middle and put the semolina flour inside.

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2.  Slowly add some warm water into the crater/well.  With your hands, start incorporating flour from the walls of the well into the liquid.  As your work in more and more flour, the well's sides may collapse.  Don't worry, use your hands to stop any liquid from running off and keep adding more flour into the dough.  Once the liquid is mixed in you will want to create another well, add a little more water, and knead again.  Repeat a couple more times.  Before your dough gets too wet, add in a little EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and a few pinches of salt.  Continue kneading and working together.  You'll want to keep working until it's a dough like consistency.  Once you've reached the right consistency knead together for ~5 minutes.  If your dough gets too wet, don't fret.  Sprinkle in some more flour.  Once you've kneaded your dough, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside on the counter to rest for 30 minutes.

3.  Once your dough has rested it's time to make the "strangozzi".  Flour your work surface.  We recommend working on a wooden surface like a wood table or cutting board.  Roll out the dough using a rolling pin until flat and ~2 cm thick.  Take a knife and cut off and thin strip.  Take the strip and start to roll out with your fingers gently, starting from the middle and as you roll work your hands to the sides.  Keep rolling until the pasta is very thin, like shoelaces!  If your pasta gets too long to manage you can always cut in half so you can roll easier.  You can also use your fingers to pinch the pasta to help make it thinner.  Once you've rolled out the pasta, set aside on a plate with semolina flour.  Sprinkle with semolina to prevent pasta from sticking together.  Continue until the desired amount of pasta is made.

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Now make the sauce.

 

1.  Prepare the asparagus.  Snap off the bottom of the stalk and cut off the asparagus tips.  Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil on the stove.  Once boiling, add the asparagus stalks and let cook until "al dente" and bright green.  You should be able to poke with a fork, but they should still be a little firm.  ~2-5 minutes (depending on thickness of stalks).  Then remove from stove, drain boiling water and run cold water to prevent from overcooking.  Once cooled, chop in smaller  bit sized pieces.

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2.  Heat up a couple tablespoons of EVOO with 1 whole clove of garli in a pan over medium heat.  Once warm and garlic clove is golden, remove the garlic and add the cubed guanciale and cook until becomes translucent and golden. (We did a combination of guanciale and pancetta, 50/50).

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3.  Once guanciale is cooked add the asparagus tips.  Cook for 2-4 minutes until tips are softened slightly.  They should turn bright green when done.

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3.  Now add asparagus stalk pieces and let cook together for another 2 minutes.  Then remove from heat while you cook the pasta.

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4.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling add salt and then add your freshly made "strangozzi".  With fresh pasta it should only take 2-3 minutes to cook.  Taste test a pasta after 2 minutes to see if "al dente", if ready drain, if it needs more time let cook for another minute.  *** BE SURE TO RESERVE A COUPLE CUPS OF PASTA WATER**.  Then drain when pasta is cooked.

5.  If you removed the guanciale & asparagus from the heat warm back up at medium heat.  Add a few ladels of the reserved pasta water

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6.  Add the "strangozzi" pasta and let cook together for ~3 minutes.  Wait until the pasta water becomes more saucy.  Remove from heat and serve!

 

Buon appetito! 

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