To an unfamiliar eye, Stroncatura pasta could be mistaken for a sort of wholewheat linguine. Calabrians, however, will identify it immediately. Once an illegal good that was sold covertly under the table behind closed doors, the flavoursome pasta is now considered high cuisine and is well loved by Michelin-starred chefs.
Calabria sits at the toe of the Italian boot. There is no doubt that Italy in general is globally known as one of the most picturesque countries, but Calabria is another world entirely. Driving through the region would take you through meadows of wildflowers, past rustic farmhouses with vibrant, magenta bougainvillea blossoming over walls and over cliffs leading down to long stretches of white sand beaches.
Stroncatura’s illicit past began in Gioia Tauro in 1919, coincidentally the same area as the famed Italian mafia group ‘Ndrangheta. The pasta was traditionally made, rather unhygienically, by sweeping up the leftover grains of the local mills to form a dough. The final product could contain anything from rye to semolina to durum wheat. The result being an extremely cheap pasta dough that has a pungent, sour taste.
Due to the lack of health and safety regulations used in the production process of the pasta, authorities banned the sale of the product, resulting in a black market. Local producers would only sell Stroncatura covertly, under the table to in-the-know buyers.
Nowadays, production is regulated and the pasta is produced to sufficient standards to be sold legally in restaurants and shops. However, even now, the tan coloured, rough strands can only be found in the province of Reggio Calabria and production is restricted to the area. However, we have it on good authority that for food lovers it is well worth the trip.
The modern recipe uses only three ingredients; Italian durum wheat, semolina and water and is used by elite chefs, such as Nino Rossi of restaurant, Qafiz. The unique, strong taste of the pasta combines well with other strong flavours, with ingredients such as anchovies, chillies, spicy sausages and olives commonly used in the accompanying sauce.