- Prep time 2 hours
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 2 to 4
Is there anything more magical than the marriage of ripe summer tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, and a generous drizzle of olive oil? When it’s peak tomato season—and it’s too hot to turn on the oven—this simple, no-cook sauce is what I come back to time and again. It’s often called pomodoro crudo and served with spaghetti, though you’ll find many variations, including those with onions, capers, olives, and local cheeses. In that spirit, don’t hesitate to make this your own and adjust the quantities to your liking. The only necessity here are high-quality ingredients.
Of course, you don’t need pasta; this sauce is excellent loaded onto grilled crusty bread and devoured over the kitchen sink. Still, it’s also perfect when paired with a chewy hand-formed pasta, which over time soaks up the garlicky tomato juices—meaning it makes for great (dare I say better?) leftovers and picnic fare. I’ve opted for strozzapreti, a pasta with medieval roots and many forms, from short, rustic spirals to long, twisted strands, to gnocchi-like dumplings. You’ll find strozzapreti in much of central Italy, particularly Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Tuscany, and Le Marche.
A quick bit of background: Strozzapreti means “priest stranglers,” and there’s plenty of lore around the name’s origins. According to Oretta Zanini de Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta, one story is of a priest who went for a hunt in the woods and forgot his supplies. Upon returning home for dinner, he was so ravenous that he started to choke on his pasta until a servant saved his life. Another claims that when the Catholic Church was in power, it rented much of its land to farmers. The farmers’ wives would then prepare pasta for the local priest as a form of payment, which angered their husbands, who wished the priest would choke on it!
Whatever the truth may be, strozzapreti are simple and fun to prepare, with no special equipment required (I even recommend making them outside alongside family and friends instead of in a hot kitchen alone!). Oh, and the dough can be made with solely ‘00’ (or all-purpose) flour or solely semolina, so just use what you have.
—Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
- For the pasta
(~1¼ cup) ‘00’ or all-purpose flour
(~1 cup) semolina or semola rimacinata flour (optional; see Author notes)
(~⅔ cup) very warm water
- For the sauce
(about 3 large) very ripe tomatoes or sweet cherry tomatoes
garlic cloves, finely chopped
(packed ½ cup) fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces, plus more for serving
(⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil), plus more for serving
Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated, for serving (optional)
- For the pasta
Make the pasta dough by hand: Make the pasta dough by hand according to this “well-method” technique
. Or, make the pasta dough in a food processor: Add the flour(s) to the bowl of a food processor with the steel blade attachment. Gradually pour in the water and pulse until beads of dough (roughly the size of couscous) start to form, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a flat, ideally wooden, surface, combine it into a mass, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and firm.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. While the dough rests, make the sauce (see second part of the recipe).
Roll out the pasta: Cut off a third of the pasta dough and tightly re-wrap the rest.
If rolling by hand: Roll the portion of dough with a rolling pin into a semi-thin disc or rectangle, about 1½ millimeters thick. It’s helpful to use a natural wooden surface for this; if you don’t have one, dust the sheet with a little ‘00’ or all-purpose flour if it’s sticky.
If using a pasta machine: Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand until it’s about ¼-inch thick. Set the pasta machine to its widest setting and roll the dough through once (it will be tapered at the ends). Fold both ends into the center like an envelope, so the width of the pasta sheet is similar in width to the pasta roller. Roll the dough through the widest setting once more so the result is an even rectangle.
Continue rolling the pasta sheet through the machine one time on each progressive setting until you have a semi-thin sheet (about setting 5 or 6 on a Marcato Atlas 150 manual roller or KitchenAid attachment). If the dough is at all sticky as it goes through the machine, dust both sides with a light layer of ‘00’ or all-purpose flour.
Make the strozzapreti: Cut the pasta sheet into ½-inch-wide (1 cm) ribbons. Ball up any scraps and keep them tightly wrapped; they can be re-rolled at the end.
Position one end of each strip in the center of your palm. Pinch the top a little to help get a grip. Starting with the fingertips of your free hand, roll the dough upward quickly and lightly until your fingertips meet and the ribbon twists on itself to form a rustic spiral. Pinch off the twisted portion and continue the motion until the strip is gone (see process images above; the length will depend on the size of your hand, but each piece will be roughly 3 inches (8 cm) long). They’ll all look different, and that’s the beauty of it!
Place the finished strozzapreti in a single layer on a sheet tray dusted in coarse semolina flour or lined with a dry dish cloth. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. Storage note: The strozzapreti are best cooked fresh, but they can be left out to dry for a couple of hours (just know they’ll take a few extra minutes to cook). For longer-term storage, freeze the pasta in a single layer on the sheet tray until solid, about 20 to 30 minutes, then dust off any excess flour and transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container. Keeps best for about a week and well up to a month or two. Cook straight from frozen.
- For the sauce
Make the sauce: If desired, peel the tomatoes by scoring an X at the bottoms with a paring knife and blanching them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer them to an ice bath—the skins can be pulled off easily. Remove pulp and seeds and roughly chop into about ½-inch pieces. (If you don’t mind the skins/seeds, skip this step; if you’re using cherry tomatoes, simply quarter them).
Combine the tomatoes, garlic, and basil in a large serving bowl. Season with a generous dusting of kosher salt, then drizzle in the olive oil. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to sit for an hour (ideally in a warm, sunny place) to meld the flavors. In the meantime, make the strozzapreti.
Finish the dish: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously. Shaking off any excess flour, gently drop in the strozzapreti and stir for a few seconds to prevent sticking. Cook the pasta until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes, or to your liking. Drain (but don’t rinse!).
If the sauce is very watery from the tomato juices, drain off some of the liquid. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then add the cooked strozzapreti and stir to combine. Finish with another drizzle of olive oil, more fresh basil leaves, and a shower of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.