strangolapreti (bread gnocchi with spinach)

strangolatreti (bread gnocchi with spinach & Parmesan)I enjoy reading where things originate and even more, the meaning behind it. If you’ve ever eaten light, puffy pillows of gnocchi, you’ll be surprised to learn (or at least I was) to find out that gnocchi can also be made with stale breadcrumbs. Strangolapreti is a traditional dish in the Trento area of northern Italy and was usually served on Friday evenings when meat was forbidden for religious reasons.  Legends have it, priests enjoyed this dish so much they would eat it until they choked; the name strangolapreti means priest strangler.

This recipe can be served two ways: in a broth or sautéed in browned butter and sage. Either way is scrumptious!

serves 2 to 4
2 cups dry breadcrumbs
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup spinach (thawed and squeeze out water), finely chopped
1/2 cup flour (may need to add a bit more if too wet)
sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
chicken broth

If using stale bread, blitz in food processor.  In a large bowl, add breadcrumbs and pour in milk.  Allow to sit until breadcrumbs have absorbed milk then squeeze any excess milk out.  Add the spinach, eggs, flour, and grated nutmeg. Combine until the mixture binds together and holds, adding more flour if necessary, but don’t overdo it as the mixture should feel slightly wet.  Make ping pong size balls by using two tablespoons to create a rough shape.  Place on a floured surface and repeat until all the mixture is used.  Next, use your hands to gently roll each ball.  Once finished, roll each ball lightly in flour just to give it a coating.  Place on a cooking tray lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

strangolapreti ballsBring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.  Working in small batches, place the strangolapreti in the water – don’t overcrowd them.  When the strangolapreti rise to the top, use a slotted spoon to remove them and place in a bowl of hot broth.  Serve immediately with a few sprinkles of grated Parmesan cheese.

For browned butter with sage – melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add whole or chopped sage leaves. Continue to cook, watching carefully, until the butter solids begin to turn golden brown and smell nutty. Add the cooked strangolapreti and coat with melted butter.  Serve and garnish with the whole sage leaves. Drizzle with remaining butter.

strangolapreti in melted butterThe Culinary Chase’s Note:  When making these for the first time, test the strangolapreti before making them all, to make sure the mixture will hold through the cooking process. Have a small pot of boiling water ready, and pinch off a small strawberry size ball of dough. Place it in the boiling water, and see if it holds together. If it remains intact, and eventually rises to the surface, you are all set! If it breaks apart, add a little more flour and try again.  Enjoy!

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