Exclusively hand-made with kitchen scraps such as stale bread, hardened cheese, eggs and broken beef marrow bones, passatelli, or rather passatelli soup, is a poor but definitely tasty dish typical of the ancient Emilia culinary tradition.
The ingredients are very simple: bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, eggs, nutmeg and lemon zest. However, it required great skills in the working of the dough that should have the right consistency.
The so called "azdore", the wives of the head of the family who represented the true "guides" of the house especially the fireplace and the kitchen, certainly didn't lack of this qualities, but maybe you can learn it too during our cooking class.
In the past, passatelli were prepered only for large festive occasions: Easter, first and foremost, but also births, baptisms, or weddings, because it was necessary to use white bread and parmesan cheese, at that time a real luxury! So at the houses of the rich passatelli were made of a lot of parmesan cheese, while at farmer's houses they were made mostly with stale bread.
My grandmother preparing Passatelli dough for Easter
But why are they called passatelli? Because they're obtained by "passing" the dough through a special tool, hardly available outside of Emilia Romagna, called fer (the iron). It's quite similar to a ricer, formed by a slightly domed metal disc with a diameter of 15 cm , with holes of about 4-5 mm and comes with two side handles for crushing hard on the dough until it comes out of the holes , realizing that the typical shape: thick and coarse spaghetti .
The spaghetti obtained should be cut to a length of about 4 cm and, according to the tradition, will be cooked and served in a beef broth.
But passatelli are also delicious in fish broth, as well as you can find them dry and seasoned in various ways, such as with sauces based on vegetables, meat, including sausage, mortadella, bacon etc. At Bagnacavallo (RA), at the fair of St.Michele they are seasoned for example with a sauce made of Bursôn, a famous local wine.
Passatelli alla Carbonara at Osteria La Baita, Faenza (RA)
Ingredients for 4 people
For the dough:
200 grams of Parmesan cheese
200 grams of bread crumbs
peel of 1/2 lemon rind
3 tablespoons of flour
1 grated nutmeg
1 pinch of salt
For the broth :
3-4 liters of water
1/4 piece of hen
1 piece of beef
1 stalk of celery
Prepare the broth putting all the ingredients together and cook it for about two hours. When cooking is complete, remove the meat and the vegetables (you will eat them as "secondo") and pass the soup through a sieve. When the broth is ready, place the bread crumbs in the center of a cutting board (better if woodmade) and creare a sort of fountain. With one hand make a hole in the middle and fill the hole with the eggs, previously beaten. Add the Parmesan cheese, grated nutmeg, lemon rind, salt and pepper.
Mix the ingredients with your hands until the dough reach a certain firmness and elasticity (in case it seems too hard, add a bit of broth to make it softer or otherwise a bit of breadcrumbs). Let the dough rest at least five minutes.
Then take a bit of dough at a time and press it into the mold (or a potato masher). Cut the passatelli of length of about 4 cm and place them on a towel without overlapping; boil the broth and dip the passatelli. They will float to the surface when they are ready (4/5 min). Serve them in a bowl with the broth.
Passatelli bolognesi with mortadella and zucchini at Sfogliarina, Casalecchio (BO)
Where to eat them
Via Francesco Petrarca, 11 - 40033 - Casalecchio di Reno (BO)
Tel. +39 051 6135389
Osteria N° 7
Via A. Costa 7, 40067 Rastignano di Pianoro (BO)
Tel. +39 051 742017
La Baita Faenza
Via Naviglio, 25c, 48018 Faenza (RA)
Tel. +39 0546 21584
Where to buy them
Via Caprarie 7 - Via Drapperie 6 Bologna
Tel. +39 051 233349
Where to find the "fer"
Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo
Via Drapperie, 12/b, 40124 Bologna
Tel. +39 051 263411