Kitchen Exhibitionist
The Culinary Quests of a Food Enthusiast Stuck in the Sticks
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Passatelli in Brodo
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
4 eggs
handful of flour
homemade 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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Blogger Judy said...
I stumbled across your blog randomly looking for something extraordinary that no one else seems to know about! My Nonna makes Passatelli regularly, but her "authentic-straight-from-Italy-Passatelli-Maker" is getting dull and she can't find a new one here (we live in southern B.C.) Any ideas as to where I could find a passatelli maker? I have looked what seems like everywhere!
Please, if you have any ideas, or know of where we could find one, please contact me:
Thank you! I'm glad someone else enjoys passatelli as much as my family does!

Blogger ML said...
You didn't find passatelli in the south b/c it is a Romagnan specialty.

Blogger Vi Kline said...
This is pretty much. like our recipe (we are ”Marches?". The only difference is that we add lemon zest. If the dough is too stiff, we add a tad of lemon juice, or lightly oil the ricer to make it easier to squeeze.

My parents migrated here early in the20th century, from small villages on the Adriatic coasr. I ate Pasatelli all my life. I will be 85 in July.

Blogger Vi Kline said...
To the lady who wanted a new Passatelli maker. Mine was ordered 31 years ago from Italy. It is a very sturdily made potato ricer. There's a story behind it. I had several ricers, but they kept breaking.
One day I received a call from the Italian deli we frequented, saying my potato ricer arrived from Italy. It was somewhat eerie, yet touching. My husband had ordered it for me as surprise before his untimely death six months earlier.

Blogger Unknown said...
Thanks VI! So neat to know that others know what I'm talking about: Nonna also adds Lemon to her noodles.

My Nonna and Nonno arrived in Canada in the late 1940's from a village near Pesaro, also on the Adriatic coast. Nonna has still not found the perfect Passatelli Maker, so I'm still on the hunt!

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