According to one legend, these ricotta and spinach dumplings were named when a gluttonous priest ate too many too quickly. Another story says that wives would customarily make the pasta for churchmen as partial payment for land rents (In Romagna, the Catholic Church had extensive land properties given in rent to farmers), and their husbands would be angered enough by the venal priests eating their wives' food to wish the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouth with it. There are different recipes for the dish and it's ingredients vary from Emilia-Romagna to Tuscany. I used a recipe from Lidia Bastianich, which sounded closest to the dish I enjoyed at Osteria di Cinghale Bianco in Firenze.
I began with a large 12 oz. bag of baby spinach leaves from Trader Joe's.
Though the spinach leaves are pre-washed, I washed the leaves thoroughly again, drained them in a colander, put them in a large pot, with just the water that clung to the leaves from rinsing. Place the pot over high heat, and cook until the little water at the bottom begins to steam (about a minute). Add a little salt, cover the pot, and cook for another two minutes. The spinach should be tender, but still bright green. Immediately drain the spinach in a colander and rinse under cold water until it is cool enough to handle. Squeeze as much water out as possible, so it is a very dry ball of spinach, about 1 cup. (I did this ahead, and refrigerated it.)
Chop the spinach in a food processor. Lidia's recipe called for 1/2 cup, but I used all of it to get the green color I had experienced in Firenze.
In the food processor, beat two eggs. Add the chopped spinach and blend. Add 10 oz. of ricotta, 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 5 T. of breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Blend. (I chilled this mixture for an hour before we were ready to make dinner, and it may have made it even easier to roll into balls).
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a plate with a handful of flour. Take about a tablespoon of filling, roll into about a one inch ball, and roll in flour, tapping off excess. Place these on a teatowel covered pan. The recipe made about 30 balls. I flash froze half for another meal, and we ate 7 or 8 for our entree. One recipe would feed four.
When you have made all the balls, melt 1/2 cube of butter with about 12-15 fresh sage leaves over medium heat. Throw the strozzapreti into the boiling water. Cook for 1 minute after they rise to the top. (about 3 minutes total). Use a slotted spoon to remove and drain strozzapreti. Place in serving dishes, and top with browned butter and crisp sage leaves. Add additional parmignano if desired. YUM!