A classic dish from Emilia-Romagna, passatelli in brodo does much what chicken noodle soup does – it's warming, simple and comforting. It's a dish that usually makes an appearance on the Christmas or Easter table and often inspires nostalgia in many Italians from this region as well as around Le Marche, Umbria and Rome.
The typical recipe that most use today doesn't stray very far from that of the great-grandfather of Italian cooking, Pellegrino Artusi. A native of Emilia-Romanga himself, Artusi in fact includes two variations for “minestra di passatelli” plus a version of passatelli made with semolina in his 1891 cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
It's a rustic and thrifty dough made with the crumbs of stale bread, eggs, grated Parmesan, bone marrow (it helps make the passatelli tender) and a hint of either freshly grated nutmeg or lemon zest, or both.
The dough is then pushed through a passatelli iron (the word “passatelli” comes from the word meaning “to pass through”) or, these days, a potato ricer with large holes, creating short, fat, rough spaghetti-like pasta, about 11/2 inches long and 1/4 inch in diameter. They're cooked in homemade chicken broth and served with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
It's simple and literally takes about 15 minutes to prepare.
The following recipe is basically Artusi's first version, with butter replacing the bone marrow. If using the bone marrow, there's no need to melt it first, Artusi himself advises simply squashing and chopping with a knife into a paste before incorporating into the dough. —Emiko
3 1/2 ounces
(100 grams) fine bread crumbs
(20 grams) butter
(40 grams) Parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for serving)
Freshly grated nutmeg or lemon zest, if desired
(2 litres) chicken stock (homemade is best)
Combine the bread crumbs, butter, cheese, eggs and nutmeg or lemon to create a dough. If it's too hard, add some liquid to it to soften it (some stock, water or even white wine will do it). If it's too soft, add some breadcrumbs. It needs to be the right consistency to be able to push through a potato ricer. To make the passatelli, push the dough through the potato ricer and as they come out from the other side, cut them to a length of about 1 1/2 inches.
Heat the chicken stock to a simmer. Drop the passatelli into the simmering stock and cook until they float, about three minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with some extra Parmesan cheese.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.