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The Adriatic Fishermen’s Brodetto, Brodetto dei Pescatori dell’Adriatico

Brodetto is the traditional fish stew of Riviera Romagnola, what the fishing families would prepare from the fish they were unable to sell — fish that were small or bony, and didn’t have much market value. But they are tasty, and while the women prepared it at home, the men cooked it on the boats.

To serve 6:

  • 3 pounds (1 1/2 k) mixed fish  (kinds discussed below)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup strong vinegar
  • Abundant parsley
  • 3 onions
  • 1 cup extravirgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves Garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The fish should be what’s locally available, fresh, and inexpensive — no need for renowned exotics here. Rather, what is flavorful, and the fishermen use, among others, eel, sea mullet, flounder, squid, reef mullet, cuttlefish, and scorpion fish. Wash clean and scale the fish, cutting up the larger fish and leaving the smaller fish whole.

Mince the parsley and the garlic, and slice the onions. Put them in a large pot, with the olive oil, set the pot over a moderate flame, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent gold. Add the tomato sauce, vinegar, and 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) boiling water. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper, cover the pot, and simmer for a half hour. Add the larger pieces of fish, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, and then the smaller pieces, recover the pot, and simmer everything for a half hour more.

Serve the brodetto over slices of bread that you have either toasted or fried in butter.

A few observations:

  • Though vinegar was traditionally used to flavor brodetto, many now prefer to add dry white wine.
  • There are a number of local variations along the Riviera Romagnola
  • In Cattolica they omit both parsley and vinegar.
  • In Riccione they omit the garlic, parsley, and onions, and let the sauce cool before they add the fish and return it to the fire; they sprinkle red wine into it.
  • In Cesenatico they omit the onion, vinegar, and wine.

You are free to follow local custom or not; I think I would go with all the ingredients.

About Brodetto and Other Brodetti

Cesentatico’s Brodetto, Il Brodetto di Cesenatico

Brodetto is the Riviera Romagnola’s traditional fish stew, and as is true for all regional specialties, there are many local variations. In particular, Cesenatici use eels and star gazers. To serve four you’ll need:

  • 4 1/2 pounds mixed fresh fish (kinds discussed below)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • A scant half cup (100 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley
  • A tablespoon of white wine vinegar or a half cup of dry white wine (optional)

The fish should be what’s locally available, fresh, and inexpensive — no need for renowned exotics here. Rather, what is flavorful, and in Cesenatico they use, among others, the greater weaver, tub gunnard, scorpion fish, sea eels, star gazers, and cuttlefish; many also add anglerfish, mullet, baby squid, and mantis shrimp. Scale and clean the fish as need be, wash it well, and cut up the larger fish while leaving the smaller ones whole.

Mince the garlic and parsley, finely slice the onion, and sauté the mixture in a broad fairly deep pot; when the onion has become translucent gold add the vinegar or wine if you’re using it, and when it has evaporated, the tomato paste diluted in a couple of ladles of boiling water (you’ll want enough to cover the fish), and season everything with salt and pepper.

When the mixture comes to a boil add the fish, beginning with the cuttlefish and squid. Simmer them covered for 10 minutes, and then add the larger pieces, cook a little longer, and then add the smaller pieces, keeping the pot covered between additions.

Raise the heat to a slightly brisker simmer and cook ten minutes more, then reduce the heat to a slower simmer and cook another 20, removing the lid for the last 10 to let the sauce thicken.

Serve the brodetto over slices of toasted bread.

In terms of variations, many add either shrimp or scampi, and clams or mussels, though traditionalists frown at both of these additions.

About Brodetto and Other Brodetti

Brudet, the Brodetto of Bellaria-Igea Marina

Brodetto is the Riviera Romagnola’s traditional fish stew, and as is true for all regional specialties, there are many local variations. This is a fairly rich brodetto; to serve 4 you’ll need:

  • 4 1/2 pounds (2 k) mixed fish (see note below)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • A scant half cup (100 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley
  • A tablespoon of white wine vinegar or a half cup of dry white wine

The fish should be what’s locally available, fresh, and inexpensive — no need for renowned exotics here. Rather, what is flavorful, and in Bellaria they use, among others, cuttlefish, gray mullet, reef mullet, mackerel, bogue, scad, striped mullet, mantis shrimps (when in season), crabs, and sole. Scale and clean the fish as need be, wash it well, and cut up the larger fish while leaving the smaller ones whole.

Mince the garlic and parsley, finely slice the onion, and sauté the mixture in a broad fairly deep pot; when the onion has become translucent gold add the wine, and when it has evaporated, the tomato paste diluted in a couple of ladles of boiling water (you’ll want enough to cover the fish), and season everything with salt and pepper.

When the mixture comes to a boil add the fish, beginning with the cuttlefish. Simmer them covered for 10 minutes, and then add the larger pieces, cook a little longer, and then add the smaller pieces, keeping the pot covered between additions.

Raise the heat to a slightly brisker simmer and cook ten minutes more, then reduce the heat to a slower simmer and cook another 20, removing the lid for the last 10 to let the sauce thicken.

The major variation to this brodetto, enjoyed by some fishermen, was the addition of a few drops of vinegar and a finely sliced onion laid over the fish at the halfway point in the cooking — the onion made the dish seem sweeter.

Serve the brodetto over toasted bread, rubbed with a little garlic if you prefer.

About Brodetto and Other Brodetti

Alice’s Passatelli in Broth

Passatelli In Brodo: Enjoy!

Passatelli In Brodo: Enjoy!

Passatelli are a classic Romagnan variation (in a broad sense, as they are made with bread crumbs and grated cheese rather than flour) on noodles in broth. In presenting them more than a century ago, Artusi said that almost every household in Romagna has a passatelli iron, a cup-and-plunger-like device that forces dough through a plate with 1/4-inch diameter holes in it, with which the cook’s helper could extrude them into the broth, and went on to suggest that those living in other parts of the country could make do with a pastry bag. Modern passatelli irons resemble potato ricers, but have 1/4-inch holes.

Alice, my Brother-in-Law’s girlfriend, prepared these for Christmas dinner, and they were a hit. Alice chooses to omit the beef morrow called for in the traditional recipe, which confers a softer texture, and instead adds a grating of lemon zest.

Making Passatelli: Measure Bread Crumbs

Making Passatelli: Measure Bread Crumbs

To serve about 8:

  • 100 grams breadcrumbs (a bit more than a cup)
  • 300 grams (a bit more than 4 cups) Parmigiano
  • About 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • A healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 quarts (2 L) simmering beef broth
Making Passatelli: Add Grated Cheese

Making Passatelli: Add Grated Cheese

Mix the grated cheese and breadcrumbs.

Making Passatelli: Add Lemon & Nutmeg

Making Passatelli: Add Lemon & Nutmeg

Add grated lemon zest — note the dusting of nutmeg in the bowl

Making Passatelli: Add Eggs

Making Passatelli: Add Eggs

Crack the eggs into the bowl and mix well, first with a fork and then by hand. To make certain the dough holds together, Alice adds a couple of tablespoons — she goes by feel — of flour and works them in too.

Making Passatelli: Cut Them Free

Making Passatelli: Cut Them Free

The next step is to fill the passatelli iron with dough and start squeezing passatelli into the simmering broth. Alice squeezed them to a length of about 2 inches (5 cm) and cut them free with a knife.

Continue filling your passatelli iron and ewxtuding passatelli until all the dough is used up. The Passatelli are done when they rise to the surface.

Divvy your passatelli in broth into bowls and enjoy!

A more traditional Passatelli recipe (and a passatelli variation with meat), on a single page

Passatelli

Passatelli In Brodo: Enjoy!

Passatelli In Brodo: Enjoy!

Passatelli are a classic Romagnan variation (in a broad sense, as they are made with bread crumbs and grated cheese rather than flour) on noodles in broth. In presenting them more than a century ago, Artusi said that almost every household in Romagna has a passatelli iron, a cup-and-plunger-like device that forces dough through a plate with 1/4-inch diameter holes in it, with which the cook’s helper could extrude them into the broth, and went on to suggest that those living in other parts of the country could make do with a pastry bag. Modern passatelli irons resemble potato ricers, but have 1/4-inch holes.

Artusi’s and Alessandro Molinari Pradelli’s recipes are quite similar; I’ve drawn from Mr. Pradelli’s La Cucina dell’Emilia Romagna here. The beef morrow, which some cooks omit, serves to give the passatelli a softer consistency.

To serve 6, you’ll need:

  • 3 cups (150 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 7 ounces (weight; 175 g — this should be about 2 cups) bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • An ounce (25 g) of beef morrow
  • 2 quarts (2 L) beef broth

Melt the beef morrow over a low flame. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs, melted morrow, and nutmeg. The resulting dough should be fairly firm; if it’s not work in some more breadcrumbs. If it’s too stiff, soften it with a little white wine.

Making Passatelli: Cut Them Free

Making Passatelli: Cut Them Free

Let the dough rest for a half hour, and in the meantime bring the broth to a boil. Fill your passatelli iron or potato ricer with the dough and squeeze it over the simmering broth, allowing the passatelli to drop into it. As soon as the passatelli have risen to the surface turn off the flame and let the soup sit for a few minutes. Transfer it to a tureen and serve it, with more grated cheese for those who want it.

Mr. Pradelli notes that around Imola and Castel San Pietro Terme cooks work a little grated lemon zest into the passatelli dough, and also that some people substitute unsalted butter for the beef morrow.

If you want richer passatelli, you can make them with meat. The procedure is the same, but you’ll want:

1/4 pound (100 g) finely ground beef
5 ounces (weight; 125 g, which should be about a cup) bread crumbs
2 cups (100 g) freshly ground Parmigiano
2 ounces (50 g) finely ground chicken breast
1 ounce (25 g) beef morrow
3 eggs
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 quarts (2 L.) beef broth

These quantities will again serve 6.