Some moments in life are simply priceless. A visit from my father’s cousin, Gloria, was a wonderful excuse to both cook up a storm as well as invite the family over for a special afternoon. Gloria is one of those people that truly brightens up the room and engages everyone in conversation – she is an absolute treat. I have only recently come to know Glora but she and my aunts had not seen each other in over 30 years which brought tears to all our eyes to see these cousins connect after so much time had passed. And special occasions call for cooking up special family recipes. My mother was an amazing cook – she cooked for our family, for holidays, for the neighborhood. Holidays were spent helping her roll out dough for cappalletti, raviolis or gnocchi or making a big pot of a soup called passatelli. Big pots of soup, pasta, sauce were always sent to the neighbors or the Italian Club or family. And I thank her endlessly for passing on the gift of loving to cook. With the chill of fall in the air, a pot of passatelli was in order. This soup which originates from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy is very easy to pull together – a simple, mouthwatering blend of parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and egg. A dash of nutmeg and lemon allow the flavors to meld into a comforting dish of flavor – perfect for a crowd or for an easy weeknight supper. Do not let the need for a ricer scare you away – you know you have one buried somewhere in your cabinet. So whip up some fresh stock (use canned if you must), dust off the ricer, and cook up a storm. And to Gloria, grazie mille for a wonderful day! Grande abbraccio!
Passatelli in Brodo
For the chicken stock: 1 whole chicken, cut into parts, including necks and backs (about 4 or so pounds)
1 large onion, quartered
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 3 large pieces each
3 stalks celery, washed and cut into 3 large pieces each
About 10 sprigs of parsley, washed
10 peppercorns 2 bay leaves
For the passatelli:
1 cup of parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup of bread crumbs, unseasoned
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Zest of 1/2 lemon
3 eggs (start with 2 if using extra large)
Equipment: 2 large stockpots, ricer
Directions: Make the stock – start the day before if you can (use canned only if necessary!)
- Place all the ingredients except the water in a large stockpot. Pour about 2 gallons of cold water over the ingredients. Cook over high heat. When it begins to bubble, lower the heat to medium-low and allow the broth to maintain a very gentle simmer.
- Stir every 20 minutes or so. Be sure to keep everything submerged – add water to the pot as needed. Simmer for about 5 or 6 hours.
- Strain the stock through a strainer or colander into another large stockpot. Pull any chicken meat off the bones and shred. Set aside. Discard vegetable solids and bones.
- Refrigerate stock overnight. This will allow any fat to solidify on the surface. Next day, skim off the fat from the top. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Make the passatelli:
- Bring the broth to a boil. Add in some of the reserved shredded chicken.
- Mix the parmesan, bread crumbs, nutmeg and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the eggs and mix together until the dough forms a soft dough. If the dough is too wet, add additional parmesan or bread crumbs. If too dry, add in a little bit of water or broth. The mixture should be a soft dough.
- When the broth boils, press about a third of the dough through a ricer, breaking off at about 2 inch lengths. Drop the dough directly into the boiling water. Repeat with remaining dough.
- When the passatelli float to the surface, they are done – should only take a few minutes!
- Serve in warm bowls with plenty of additional parmesan!