Julia's Handmade Strozzapreti With Tiny Meatballs

According to Julia Busuttil Nishimura, the best way to unwind is to make pasta! Sounds deliciously therapeutic to us.

So, the next time you need to ‘let it go’, try Julia’s mouth-watering strozzapreti (a.k.a. priest stranglers) with tiny meatballs. It’s the perfect recipe to have up your sleeve as it requires no fancy equipment (just your hands!).

You can find this recipe (among many others) in her beautiful new cookbook, Around The Table, which is available online and in all good bookstores!

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Julia’s strozzapreti is perfect recipe to have up your sleeve – it requires no fancy equipment (just your hands!). Photo – Armelle Habib

Julia’s son Yuki helps out with the pasta making! Photo – Armelle Habib

Julia Busuttil Nishimura
8th of August 2022

When I want to unwind in the kitchen, I make pasta. There is something so soothing about turning flour and water into a dough and then into pasta. This particular pasta, strozzapreti (priest stranglers), is wonderful to make, as it requires no special equipment and has a relaxing, repetitive motion to twist and curl the dough into shape. The story goes that the pasta got its name after a very hungry and demanding priest gobbled up a huge plate of strozzapreti and choked. Whatever the story is, they are very satisfying to make and eat.

Here they are with a sauce, simple in nature, but with the addition of some absolutely adorable tiny meatballs. They should be rolled to about the size of a hazelnut, which does take a while, but it’s that repetitive action again. A task which requires your attention and complete devotion – a wonderful act to calm a busy mind.

I first tried strozzapreti in Maremma, a region of Southern Tuscany, where I lived. They were served with an incredibly fresh and vibrant seafood sauce. They are also common in Emilia-Romagna, which is where the inspiration for this pairing came from. The tiny meatballs are seasoned with nutmeg and Parmigiano Reggiano, two ingredients commonly found in that region. If you don’t want to make fresh pasta, use 320–480 g dried pasta of your choice.

You can find this recipe (and 99 more!) in Julia’s new book, Around The Table – out now!

Dinner is served! Photo – Armelle Habib

Strozzapreti with tiny meatballs

(Serves 4-6)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
3 parsley stalks
Sea salt and black pepper
150 ml dry white wine
800 g canned whole peeled tomatoes
2 fresh bay leaves
Grated Parmigiano
Reggiano or pecorino, to serve


400g tipo 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
Fine salt
Finely ground semolina
Flour (semola rimacinata), for dusting


250g pork mince (not too lean)
250g beef or veal mince
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium–low heat. Add the shallot, parsley stalks and a good pinch of salt and gently cook, stirring occasionally, for 10–12 minutes, until the shallot is soft and just beginning to colour. Increase the heat to medium, pour in the wine and scrape the base to lift any caramelised bits. Pour in the tomatoes along with 200 ml of water, then scrunch in the bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium–low and gently simmer the sauce for 30–40 minutes, until slightly reduced and rich in colour.

Meanwhile, to make the strozzapreti, tip the tipo 00 flour onto a clean work surface and mix with a large pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre and slowly pour in 250 ml (1 cup) of warm water a little at a time and use your hands to slowly bring the flour into the water in a circular motion, then mix with your hands until the dough begins to come together (a pastry scraper helps).

Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth, adding a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Once the dough begins to look smooth, it is important that you clean your hands and work surface of any dry dough. This will prevent the dough picking up flecks of dry dough as you knead it. Cover the dough with an upturned bowl and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is 2mm thick. You can also do this with a pasta machine. Just divide the dough into four pieces and, working with one piece at a time, roll it out until it reaches the desired thickness. Dust the dough with semolina flour, then roll the short ends into the centre so they meet in the middle and cut the dough into 6 mm wide strips. Unravel the dough strips, then take one strip and hold the top section between your hands. Rub your hands together to create a twisted, tubular shape, then pinch it off with your fingers. Move the next piece of the strip into your palms and repeat the twisting and pinching until the whole strip has been used up. Arrange the strozzapreti on a clean tea towel dusted with semolina flour and continue with the remaining dough.

To make the meatballs, combine all of the ingredients except the oil in a large bowl. Roll the mixture into tiny meatballs, the size of hazelnuts. Heat a large frying pan over high heat and add the olive oil. Working in batches, cook the meatballs, shaking the pan to turn them over, for about 3 minutes, until browned and mostly cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and stir though.

Cook the strozzapreti in a large saucepan of salted boiling water forabout 3 minutes, until chewy but not chalky. Drain the strozzapreti, reserving 250 ml (1 cup) of the pasta cooking water. Add the strozzapreti to the tomato sauce and meatballs, along with some of the cooking water to help coat the pasta. Simmer the pasta and sauce together for a few minutes until slightly thickened again, and the meatballs are cooked through. Serve with plenty of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino.

Shop Around the Table online here, or find it in all good bookshops!