Strangolapreti (bread-and-spinach dumplings)
Serves 6 as a primi
THE REGIONAL CUISINE OF TRENTINO IS INGREDIENTS HEARTY AND THRIFTY — like this classic dish of spinach (or chard or kale) dumplings, bound with stale bread in place of the usual potato. Originally, strangolapreti was a staple of the local Friday dinner, when meat was off the table. And while its origins can be traced to the 5th century, this dish and the name by which we now know it date to the mid-16th century, when it was regularly fed to the clergy gathered at the Ecumenical Council of Trent. The priests enjoyed the dish so much, it was said, that they would eat it until they choked.
- 600g (1 1/3 lb) stale bread, cubed
- 500 ml (2 cups) milk
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 tbsp butter
- 400 g (14 oz) spinach (or chard or kale)
- 6 eggs
- 100 g (3 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 50 g (1⁄4 cup) butter
- handful of sage leaves
- alpine cheese (Asiago, Taleggio or fontina), grated
- salt, pepper
Combine bread and milk in a bowl and leave to soak for 30 minutes. In a small skillet, sweat shallots in butter until translucent (do not allow to colour) and set aside. Cook spinach until thoroughly wilted, then drain, squeeze in paper towels until dry, and chop finely. Squeeze excess milk from the bread; in a bowl, combine with the spinach, eggs, Parmigiano, shallots, and salt to taste. Mix well. If mixture is too wet, mix in a little flour.
Bring a pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil and add a spoonful of dumpling mixture to test. If it falls apart, work in a little more flour. Taste and correct seasonings. Using two large spoons or an ice cream scoop, form the mixture into dumplings, then cook in the boiling water until they float. Remove with a slotted spoon.
For the classic finish, combine butter and sage in a skillet on medium heat. Once butter browns, add strangolapreti and toss (or plate them and pour butter over top). Serve topped with grated alpine cheese or smoked ricotta salata. Or try one of the variations we favour at the restaurant. In winter, we serve strangolapreti on a bed of fonduta and, in summer, with pomodoro e basilico.