The story behind this delicious dish is that it was reserved for the occasions when the priest came to call Priests being notoriously either underfed or very greedy, they would tuck into this dish so voraciously that they would virtually choke themselves. There is another story which claims that the idea was to choke the priest!


  • 570 g (1¼ lb) plain white flour
  • 200 g (7 oz) semolina
  • salt and pepper
  • 450 g (1 lb) fresh ripe tomatoes, cut in half
  • a handful of fresh parsley
  • 4 sprigs of fresh basil
  • 1 large stick celery with leaves, quartered
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) unsalted butter
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Put the flour and semolina on the table top in a mound. Plunge your clenched fist into the mound, then add a pinch of salt and just enough warm water to allow you to begin kneading. (The emphasis here is on elbow grease rather than more liquid!)

Knead, roll and fold until you have a smooth and elastic dough, no softer than average bread dough – if anything somewhat stiffer. It will take 20–30 minutes. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to rest.

Put the tomatoes, parsley, basil, celery, onion, oil and salt and pepper into a saucepan, cover and simmer slowly in their own juices until the tomatoes fall apart. Leave to cool, then, push it through a mouli or sieve into another pan. Stir and keep warm until required.

Roll out the rested dough into sections no larger than your little finger. Cut each section into 5 or 6 pieces, and rock them to and fro on the table to hollow them out slightly, pressing down very hard with your thumb. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for 2–3 minutes, scooping them out as soon as they return to the surface. Pour over the warm tomato sauce, and add the butter and plenty of Parmesan cheese. Toss it all together and serve at once.