The Emilian passatelli

The Emilian passatelli are a typical and delicious winter soup, from the ancient tradition of Emilian cuisine. They are particularly popular in the Modena area

The Emilian passatelli are a typical and delicious winter soup, from the ancient tradition of Emilian cuisine. They are particularly popular in the Modena area but tend to cook and eat willingly throughout Emilia Romagna and in many other areas of Italy. The passatelli are a flagship of Italian cuisine and they deserved a mention in the Artusi recipe book.

History and origin of passatelli

Like many traditional recipes from our beautiful Italy, Emilia passatelli also have an ancient, bucolic, sometimes romantic history. Passatelli are a variant of the so-called tardura, better known as stracciatella. It is a nourishing and light soup that was prepared, in ancient times, specifically for women who have recently given birth, to give them strength and genuine nourishment after childbirth.

At the time, people still gave birth at home and tradition had it that the mother or mother-in-law of the puerpera tried to cook the stracciatella, to be served in bed to the new mother, as soon as she had shown that she had an appetite.

Stracciatella was also remembered by Michele Placucci a famous author of 19th-century Romagna tales, in several of his writings. The tardura or stracciatella was a rich soup of breadcrumbs, eggs and cheese, light but nutritious, considered ideal for restoring women after the great effort of childbirth and promoting the milky whipped cream.

Over time the stracciatella has been modified and enriched, slowly transforming itself into the Emilia passatello which is still usually enjoyed during lunches or dinners on cold winter Sundays. The passatelli soup was a dish much appreciated by the Romagna countryside families: it is cheap, nourishes, satisfies and warms.

The ideal for men who had spent the day working in the fields and needed heat and energy and for children and young people, who had to be offered a hot meal before facing cold nights. The passatelli recipe handed down from mother to daughter, has reached Modena, where it has been perfected to become today’s delight.

Iron for passatelli: a precious tool

In the 19th and 20th centuries in the Romagna farmhouses passatelli were prepared with the special iron for passatelli. Nowadays finding an original one is almost impossible. Those who own it do well to be very proud of it because they have a precious and prestigious tool, which tells stories of simplicity and good traditional cuisine.

Nowadays passatelli are often prepared using a potato masher: the only tool capable of replacing the original iron. More technological alternatives, although certainly less romantic are more sophisticated appliances such as horizontal extractors (for example the Hurom models).

How to cook the passatelli

The Emilian passatelli are a typical and delicious winter soup, from the ancient tradition of Emilian cuisine. They are particularly popular in the Modena area

The recipe for the Emilian passatelli is the one referring to the Modena. The original preparation includes them in broth. It is a winter soup, suitable for both lunch and dinner, perfect for Sunday meetings with relatives. Here’s how to prepare it:

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 2 large fresh eggs + 1 yolk, preferably from hens raised on the ground;
  • 125 g grated Parmigiano Reggiano;
  • 75 g breadcrumbs;
  • 1.5 liters of meat broth, thick and full-bodied;
  • a pinch of nutmeg – salt to taste.


  • Beat the eggs with a fork, after having flavored them with nutmeg and salted, until the mixture is liquid, smooth, very homogeneous and without any lump;
  • Add the Parmesan to the beaten eggs and beat again, until the mixture becomes homogeneous;
  • Add the breadcrumbs and work together until you get a firm dough, very smooth and soft, slightly moist;
  • Insert the dough, a little at a time, into the potato masher and mash: the passatelli will be formed, of shape and size not necessarily all the same;
  • Cook the passatelli in the meat broth already boiling;
  • Wait until the passatelli come to the surface, about 2/3 minutes, and serve in deep plates with plenty of hot broth;

This is the original recipe faithful to the dictates of Modena cuisine in particular and Emilian cuisine in general. The kitchen, however, is a widely customizable art so the changes that can be made are different. Here some example:

  • if you don’t like meat broth you can cook passatelli in vegetable broth. In this case it is good that the broth is rich, prepared with many different vegetables. The pieces of cooked vegetables, for example carrots, courgettes, squash, onions and potatoes, can act as a side dish or as a single dish, to be enjoyed together with broth and passatelli;
  • if there is a need to eliminate gluten from the diet, for yourself or some guests, you can use gluten-free breadcrumbs;
  • in the broth you can melt a cheese or a thin slice, to make the soup more dense, creamy and tasty;
  • instead of using only Parmigiano Reggiano you can use a mix of grated cheeses, for example pecorino, Fossa cheese, Bagoss, salted ricotta, to give the dish a more decisive flavor;
  • passatelli can also be cooked in fish broth, if you want to try an alternative version, within a seafood menu or in combination with a hot fish soup;
  • to the dough you can add a dose of flour, about 2 full spoons, to obtain more full-bodied passatelli.

The perfect wine to pair with Emilian passatelli is, of course, a Romagna table ruby ​​red, fragrant and full-bodied but not excessively fermented and alcoholic.

Not just passatelli in broth: some delicious ideas

The origin and tradition of passatello wants it cooked in abundant dense and fragrant meat broth. There are, however, delicious and original alternatives to taste passatelli. Here are some examples:

  • passatelli with sausage: fry the sausage with garlic, onion and plenty of olive oil. Once the passatelli are cooked, instead of serving them brothy, drain them using a slotted spoon and sauté them for a few seconds in the pan with the sausage sauce. They will become slightly crunchy and acquire all the flavor and taste of the sauté. Serve all together as a single dish, accompanied by a good Emilian red wine, firm and intense;
  • vegan passatelli: for those who have chosen not to eat eggs, cheese or meat broth, the alternative is to replace the egg with chickpea flour, which acts as an aggregator and binder, and cook the passatelli in plain salted water. In this case it is good to use the flour in the dough, to replace the Parmesan and give consistency to the passatelli;
  • tomato passatelli: instead of cooking the passatelli in the broth, they are cooked in normal salted water and seasoned with a simple tomato and basil sauce, preferably fresh;
  • passatelli with porcini mushrooms: clean and fry the porcini exclusively with extra virgin olive oil, until they dry. Cook the passatelli in the meat broth, drain them with a slotted spoon and season with the mushrooms just removed from the heat;

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