Passatelli is a traditional Italian dish made with stale bread (for breadcrumbs), Parmigiano Reggiano, eggs and lemon zest. They have a wrinkled appearance and a cylindrical shape, of about 8 cm in length (about 3 inch) and 5 mm in diameter (about 0,20 inch). Passatelli recipe is from Emilia Romagna region and Marche region, in particular the province of Pesaro.
Once they served passatelli only in chicken broth, but nowadays you can use even beef or vegetable stock. In the area of Pesaro and Riviera Romagnola fish broth with passatelli is a very popular dish. In fact, passatelli in brodo is one of the most famous and classic soup recipe in Italy. However you can use this homemade pasta even as a dry pasta seasoned with the sauce you like. In Italian they are called passatelli asciutti and you can season them with pasta sauce, clam or shrimp sauce, cream cheese and vegetables. Very famous in the Marche region is Passatelli with white truffle from Acqualagna.
Passatelli dough is enriched with nutmeg and grated lemon zest, to give a delicious and unique flavor. Like all popular and traditional Italian recipes, each family has its own recipe, with small variations. Passatelli Marchigiani, Emiliani or Romagnoli are not very different: some use lemon zest or nutmeg, others use both. However, the authentic Italian passatelli recipe doesn’t want the addition of flour and milk.
Passatelli Recipe: Curiosities
Many recipes of Italian cuisine come from the popular tradition of peasant cooking; poor in ingredients but rich in flavor. Passatelli recipe is the emblem of this tradition. For some of these recipes, such as Tuscan Pappa al Pomodoro or Lombard Bread Cake, the main ingredient is stale bread, that becomes the protagonist of these delicious dishes. In the past, peasant families in poverty had to think about the nutritional needs of their families. In the absence of other richer foods, they had to live with what they had available, namely stale bread, some eggs and seasoned cheese.
Passatelli are so called in Italian because the dough is actually pressed with a kitchen tool with large holes and the dough “passes” through the holes, forming small cylinders. So in the end, the name passatelli comes from the Italian verb passare (eng: to pass, go through).
Passatelli are also mentioned by Artusi in his famous book Science in the kitchen. Artusi says that passatelli probably derive from the recipe for “tardura or stracciatella”, an egg and cheese soup that in the past was cooked for the new mothers to regain strength after the childbirth. In fact, even if it’s a simple dish, Passatelli are very nutritious. If served with a good meat broth, as Italian tradition dictates, they are a perfect confort food for cold winter evenings.
- 4 whole medium eggs
- 200 g (7 oz) of breadcrumbs made with stale bread
- 200 g (7 oz) of grated parmigiano cheese
- freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon of fine salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
A necessary and indispensable tool for making passatelli is the potato masher. Using this kitchen tool with large holes, you get perfect passatelli pasta. In Italy there is a special tool for making passatelli called “fer”. It is a passatelli press that is held with two hands, pressed on the dough until the passatelli come out of the holes. You can see it in some of our photos. It is a kitchen tool that you can find only in Italy. So if you decide to go on a trip and come for a vacation in Italy, don’t miss the opportunity to buy it as a souvenir!
Another very useful kitchen tool to make this recipe is the grater for the lemon zest and nutmeg, the two fundamental ingredients that give passatelli their unmistakable flavor. Check this set out: lemon zester and cheese/nutmeg grater.
How to Make Passatelli
Step 1) – In a bowl mix and combine all the ingredients for passatelli. First the breadcrumbs, the parmigiano cheese and the eggs. Then add the lemon zest, plenty of nutmeg, a pinch of fine salt and a little freshly ground black pepper.
Step 2) – Mix the ingredients with your hands and work the mixture until you get an elastic and compact dough. Now give the dough the shape of a ball.
Step 3) – Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature. This will make the mixture more compact and prevent passatelli from breaking and crumbling during cooking. Then cut a piece of dough the size of a tennis ball.
Step 4) – Place the dough in a potato masher with large holes. Press the dough and pass it through the holes to form passatelli. Cut them about 8 cm (3 inch) long with a knife and place them on a lightly floured tray.
In Italy, especially in the Marche region, there is a kitchen tool that was created with the aim of making passatelli. It is, to all intents and purposes, a passatelli masher: you have to hold it firmly with two hands, place it on the dough and press to form the passatelli. It’s called “fer”.
Passatelli in Brodo
Make a tasty meat broth or vegetable broth, depending on your preferences. Bring it to a boil. Then press the dough in the potato masher and cut and drop passatelli directly into the boiling stock. Or, if you prefer, add them with your hands once they’re ready. Enjoy passatelli in brodo very hot with the addition of grated parmigiano cheese.
Passatelli Pasta Seasoned to Taste (Passatelli Asciutti)
If you want to make passatelli recipe and eat them seasoned with a sauce you like, follow these few steps. Make passatelli and let them rest for a few minutes on the floured tray. Then boil them a few at a time in plenty of salted water. Passatelli have a very fast cooking time in fact they are ready as soon as they come to the surface (as for the potato gnocchi recipe).So drain passatelli with a slotted spoon as they rise to the surface and place them in a serving dish with the dressing of your choice.
Passatelli dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
You can also freeze them: put them in a tray sprinkled with a little flour, in a single layer, so that they do not stick together and place in the freezer. After a few hours you can store them frozen, placing them in freezer bags. They will keep for 3 months.
Tips and Tricks for Making Passatelli
Making Passatelli is very easy. The only problem you may have, is that passatelli could break during cooking. Read step 3 for not to make this happen.
But the most important tip when it comes to making this type of pasta is to use the right ingredients
So do not use seasoned bread but plain white bread. If you use breadcrumbs that contain oil or any other fat, you risk that your passatelli will crumble once you have put them in boiling water/broth. The bread must be stale and/or very dry.
Both the bread and the parmigiano cheese must be very finely grated.
Parmigiano cheese must be aged for 24/36 months.
If you are unsure of the quality of your breadcrumbs, add one tablespoons of flour to the dough. Even if this ingredient is not included in the traditional and authentic recipe, this trick can help.
Another tip is to not mix passatelli during cooking. If you must, do it very gently and with extreme care so as not to risk crushing them.