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Strozzapreti with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce

There are many explanations for the name of this pasta, which means "strangle the priest": Nancy Harmon Jenkins's favorite claims that the pasta was meant to fill the priest to the choking point at Sunday lunch so he wouldn't overindulge on the roast that followed. It's very difficult to cook this pasta to the perfect al dente stage: some parts will be underdone, while others will be quite soft.

slideshow Fast Weekday Pastas

  • Servings: 6 TO 8 SERVINGS

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  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons minced celery leaves
  • 1 dried red chile, crumbled
  • One 28-ounce can imported tomatoes, preferably from San Marzano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound dried strozzapreti pasta
  • Freshly grated Grana Padana or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the pancetta and cook over moderately high heat until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion softens, about 4 minutes. Add the parsley, mint, celery leaves and red chile and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their liquid and simmer over moderately high heat, crushing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is thick, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring, until slightly underdone. Drain the pasta lightly, then add it to the sauce and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes longer, until just al dente. Transfer the strozzapreti to a warmed bowl and pass the cheese separately.

Suggested Pairing

A straightforward red with good acidity harmonizes with this simple sauce. Consider a Barbera d'Alba or Barbera d'Asti, both from Piedmont.

Contributed By Photo © Beatriz Da Costa Published January 2000

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