From April until early autumn, it is common to see people of all ages bent over to gather bunches of herbs along the rivers or on the hillsides. This is not witchcraft, but a custom practiced by the people of Romagna for generations: gathering strigoli, sciopit, carletti, grisol, sonaglini or, simply, stridoli. This spontaneous herb is common throughout Italy and has too many names, but many people trace its denomination to the squeaking sound produced when its large, fleshy leaves rub against one another. Given the difficulty of finding and collecting a sufficient amount of stridoli to be used in the kitchen, may it be raw or cooked, people usually turn to their trusted fruit sellers or to shops specializing in gardening products. If you are wondering why, it’s actually simple: numerous food enthusiasts have decided to allot larger spaces for this excellent ingredient in their own gardens. Easier to see, closer to the heart and the pantry.
Stridoli or Silene Vulgaris: a plant with a… legendary flavor
Before understanding why and how this spontaneous herb has conquered the hearts and palates of Romagna and many others, we must first get to know it a little better.
Stridoli are hairless perennial plants that grow spontaneously at very different altitudes and latitudes. From March to August, this herb grows flowers with a swollen calyx that are difficult to pollinate for larger insects such as bees and hornets: thus, the plant keeps its flower open until late evening to let small pollinators in.
Leaves used for cooking are gathered before flowering begins. Stridoli flourish in spring: tender and packed with flavor, they are ready to grace a nice plate of tagliatelle pasta. The scientific name of stridoli, or strigoli, is Silene Vulgaris, and according to legend it is named after Silenus, the legendary Greek god of winemaking and inebriation.
According to Greek mythology, Silenus was Dionysus’ guardian and the father of Satyrs and Nymphs. This ancient god of the forests – a lover of wine, music and nature – is often depicted near streams or in lush clearings with a round and swollen belly. Perhaps it was because these plants were mainly found along rivers and streams, or because the round shape of its flowers, the so-called “bubbolini”, reminds of Silenus’ belly: it’s clear that the connection between the Greek god and stridoli’s scientific name is so perfect and poetic that there seem to be no other valid etymological explanation.
Good raw, Better if cooked, but Best for sauce!
But let's get to the highlight of this article: how to enhance the unique taste of stridoli. Although the possibilities of using this spontaneous plant are almost endless, there is no better way to appreciate its intense flavor than in an excellent sauce. Let’s get down to business and check this delicious recipe: tagliatelle with stridoli sauce.
Ingredients for the fresh pasta:
600 g white flour
Salt to taste
For the sauce:
300 g washed stridoli
600 g tomato sauce
30 g belly (or guanciale)
1 clove of garlic
1/2 glass of dry white wine
Pour the flour into a large bowl. Create a hollow in the middle and crack the eggs that have been brought to room temperature in the center. Lightly beat the eggs using a fork and gradually incorporate the flour. As soon as the mixture has come together, continue kneading by hand until a consistent dough is formed.
Let the dough rest for at least half an hour. Then, flatten it to a thin sheet on a wooden cutting board. Roll the dough up and cut into strips of the same width.
For the sauce, coarsely chop garlic, onion and pork belly (or guanciale) and sauté everything in a pan with some oil. After a few minutes, add the white wine little by little and let it simmer until the wine has reduced: this will enable the alcohol to evaporate, leaving behind only the most delicate aromas. Add the stridoli and tomato sauce, letting them absorb the flavors. Continuously stir and season with salt. Cook for about 15/20 minutes over low heat.
Cook the tagliatelle pasta until it is al dente; drain and pour into the saucepan together with the sauce. Serve with a glass of Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC: you will surely love this dish. Enjoy your meal!