One is that gluttonous priests were so enthralled by the savory pasta that they ate too quickly and choked themselves, sometimes to death. Another explanation involves the “azdora” (“housewife” in the Romagna’s dialect), who “chokes” the dough strips to make the strozzapreti: “… in that particular moment you would presume that the azdora would express such a rage (perhaps triggered by the misery and difficulties of her life) to be able to strangle a priest!” Another legend goes that wives would customarily make the pasta for churchmen as partial payment for land rents (In Romagna, the Catholic Church had extensive land properties rented 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. The name surely reflects the diffuse anticlericalism of the people of Romagna and Tuscany.
The story from my mother’s village is a fourth variation (and, naturally, my favorite): the parish priest had a habit of showing up on Sundays after mass to the home of the town’s best cook. One, two, three Sundays in a row. On the fourth, the wife would serve the not-so-subtly-named “choke the priest” pasta to send the message that he’d outstayed his welcome.