Passatelli is a traditional recipe of Romagna that, like me, has been adopted by Bologna.
Although passatelli are very popular in Bologna, they originate in Romagna.
Even at my home, albeit on the border between Emilia and Romagna, tortellini, not cappelletti, was the dish of Christmas lunch, and passatelli was the dish of Sundays and other events such as Easter, for example, or family celebrations. But at the homes of many friends, they were, and are the Christmas soup.
We mainly ate them in broth, often during the summer. But we ate them even asciutti (without broth) seasoned with fish or vegetable sauces, although Grandma applied flexible boundaries to the vegetarian idea.
I also remember fried passatelli, and I think it is something you have to eat once in your life.
The origin of passatelli
The origin of this recipe is not clear.
And on the other hand, it is not a surprise because passatelli is a peasant recipe born in the countryside. The main difference between piatti della cucina povera and recipes cooked for the table of the Lord is that the first kind was transmitted orally, the latter written in cookbooks. We have lost much information about the first kind of dish.
Luckily, the Italian gastronome Pellegrino Artusi included the recipe in the first edition of Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (1891).
That tells us some information. For instance, the recipe was already known in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, there were two versions of passatelli. One for the poor people made only of egg-bread-cheese (Recipe n. 20), and one enriched with minced meat (Recipe n. 21).
Regarding the origins of passatelli, there is another Romagna recipe for a similar soup called tardura. But Artusi, in his book, does not associate passatelli with Panata (Recipe n. 11), or tardura, known since the 14th century.
Passatelli and tardura
Many associate tardura and passatelli using Michele Placucci’s book, Pregiudizi dei contadini della Romagna (Forlì, 1818) as a source. I found the book, which collects Romagna habits and traditions of the time. Here, too, there is no reference to passatelli.
In the chapter entitled On birth, la tardura (‘soup consisting of eggs, cheese and breadcrumbs’, p. 27), we read that it was offered to guests on the occasion of the birth of a child, while the ‘puerpera’ (mom) ate in her room alone and occasionally appeared with the newborn baby to take greetings and blessings.
The ingredients of the two recipes are practically the same, but the consistency of the dough is different. The dough of passatelli is firm and compact, while tardura is like a batter.
Probably, it is logical to assume that that liquid batter, over time, became passatelli. We do not know if it is exact and when it happened.
What is certain is that Artusi published his book in 1891, including two recipes of passatelli without mentioning any connection with the other soup.
In the past, women used to make passatelli with a dumbbell made up of two wooden side handles that hold a perforated disc, e fér in Romagnolo dialect.
Today, we use a potato masher or a similar tool specifically for passatelli, with slightly larger holes.
Passatelli, a few tips
At home, Nonna always put a little nutmeg and only used lemon when she cooked passatelli asciutti with fish or vegetable sauces.
Some have changed the old recipe for meat passatelli by adding finely chopped mortadella instead of mince.
If the dough seems too firm, add milk to make it softer.
On the contrary, if it is sticky, add breadcrumbs, a little at a time, until it becomes firm (but never hard).
If you have never made passatelli, remember that your finger should go into the dough, finding some resistance without too much effort. Don’t worry, the experience will teach you.
Buona cucina, Monica
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Tip for serving passatelli asciutti
- Add a tablespoon of flour to the other ingredients.
The flour is needed to make the passatelli solid and prevent them from breaking into crumbs while you season them.
- Let the dough rest for two hours in the refrigerator and wrap it in plastic.
- And be gentle as you mix them with the sauce.
Passatelli in broth
- potato masher
- 3 eggs
- 130 g of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 120 g of unsalted breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 pinch of salt
- In a bowl, beat eggs lightly with a fork.
- Add Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, and salt.
- First, mix the ingredients with a fork, then use your hands and shape the dough into a ball.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Unwrap and cut the dough into 2 to 4 pieces (2 for long passatelli, 4 for short passatelli).
- Place one or two piece at a time in the tool and mash by dropping the passatelli, short or long, depending on how you like them, directly into the boiling meat or vegetable broth. Help yourself with a knife to cut the passatelli and drop them into the broth.
- If the broth is boiling too hard, reduce the heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until they rise to the surface.
- Serve the passatelli in the hot broth with grated Parmigiano aside.
- You can prepare the passatelli in advance by storing them in the refrigerator (a couple of days) or in the freezer. Place them on a tray sprinkled with semolina.