Passatelli in Brodo
I first learned of Passatelli in Brodo over 15 years ago on the old PBS cooking show, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian, and instantly I knew it was something I would love.
Passatelli are small noodle/dumpling hybrids. If pasta mated with spaetzle, their offspring would be passatelli. Instead of flour, they are made from dry bread crumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and then simmered in a delicate, flavorful broth until tender, and served as a light soup course. Well, I love pasta, I love bread, I love cheese, and I love good broth so I decided this dish was right up my gastronomic alley. This was a “must try”.
Thereafter, every time I dined at an Italian restaurant I searched in vain for Passatelli in Brodo on the menu. Even a trip to southern Italy failed to introduce me to this object of my gastronomic desire. Eventually, I forgot all about Passatelli in Brodo. For some reason it never occurred to me to make it myself.
Then suddenly last fall, during a cooking a lesson in Emilia Romagna, there I was, making Passatelli in Brodo. It seemed a very momentous occasion as we sat down at the table to eat, but after such long anticipation for this dish I feared there could be disappointment.
The broth, about which I’ve previously written
, was light and delicate but very flavorful. The passatelli were tender, yet had just enough resistance to the tooth to make them satisfying. Unlike bland pasta or dumplings, these plump little morsels had the nutty robust flavor of Parmigiano Reggiano spiked with the subtle sweet peppery bite of nutmeg. It was even better than my overactive imagination had dreamed!
Like many traditional Italian recipes, this one is fairly simple, made with only a handful of basic ingredients. And like all Italian dishes, the key to success with such simplicity is to use only high quality ingredients. The breadcrumbs must be made from chunks of stale but good Italian bread, which is grated or ground in a food processor to make fine crumbs. The cheese, of course, must be nothing other than real Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated. And the nutmeg is scraped from the whole seed at the last minute.
To form the dough into the appropriate shape we used a passatelli maker, which is a heavy metal plate pierced with holes and framed by two handles. It was pressed onto mounds of the fresh pasta dough and pushed forward on the table surface until little worms were extruded. Back home I used a giant round slotted spoon to press onto the dough, but there are several other options described in the recipe below.Passatelli in Brodo
1/2 pound fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 pound Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
large pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
handful of flourhomemade broth
Mix together bread crumbs, cheese, and nutmeg on a flat surface, like a wooden board. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper. Make a well in the middle, drop in the eggs, and mix with a fork and then hands. Knead into a big ball, sprinkling in flour until a soft dough forms.
Pinch off big chunks of dough and press through holes to form passatelli. If you don’t have a passatelli maker, use any kitchen device with holes about the size of small peas. I’ve used a large, round flat slotted spoon to press onto dough, pushing forward until 1 inch long worms are extruded. Some recipes suggest using a potato ricer with the largest holes, or a meat grinder without the blade. The goal is to make 1 – 2 inch long extrusions of dough about ¼ inch in diameter.
Bring the broth to a gentle simmer. Drop in the passatelli and cook gently until they float to the surface, and cook until firm but still tender, which takes just a few minutes. Serve immediately.
Yield: 8 first-course servings
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