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Rice and Eggplant Soup, Minestra di Melanzane e Riso

Eggplant is one of the most classic south Italian vegetables, and though it often finds its way into pasta sauces, it’s not common in soups. This recipe is Puglian, and also calls for rice, which, legend has it, was introduced to Italy by the Arabs who once dominated southern Italy.

To serve 4:

  • 3/4 cup (150 g) rice
  • 3 medium eggplants, stemmed and cubed
  • A medium onion
  • An egg
  • A small bunch parsley, minced
  • A dozen fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • A quart (1 liter) of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (50 g) freshly grated Parmigiano or mild Romano cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the cubed eggplant in a colander, sprinkle it abundantly with salt, and let it set for a couple of hours. While it’s setting, chop the onion and the herbs, and heat the broth to a simmer.

Heat a quarter cup of olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the onions and the herb mixture. Rinse the eggplant well and drain it.

When the onions begin to soften, add the diced eggplant and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the simmering broth and the rice, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the rice is done. While the rice is cooking, lightly beat the egg and mix the cheese into it.

When the rice is done, remove the pot from the fire, briskly stir a ladle of the soup into the egg mixture, and then stir the egg mixture back into the soup. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, check seasoning, and serve.

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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.

Making Broth, or Brodo

Making Broth: Chicken, Beef, Herbs...

Making Broth: Chicken, Beef, Herbs…

One might not think it, but broth is a culinary masterpiece. It serves as in ingredient in all sorts of things, from stew to risotto, and in its own right provides the perfect supper after a filling midday meal. For that matter, broth with tortellini or cappelletti is a standard first course at festive dinners in Northern Italy. A good bowl of broth will warm you in the winter, refresh you in the summer, and is perfect year round if you’re on a diet.

You will find that what you p

  • 2-3 quarts of water
  • 2 pounds of beef, either shanks, short plate, short ribs, or brisket
  • A piece of spongy bone, or a joint, split (optional)
  • Half a chicken or capon
  • A stick of celery
  • A carrot, scraped
  • A bunch of parsley
  • A bunch of basil, if it’s in season
  • A small onion
  • A tomato (optional)
  • 2 or 3 pepper corns
  • A clove or two (optional; it tempers the sweetness derived from the poultry)
  • Salt to taste – go easy, because the broth will evaporate and get saltier as it cooks

Meat from older animals is better because it has more flavor, and the beef should not be too lean. A piece of spongy bone, or a joint, split, enriches the broth, though it also makes it heavier. If you want to keep the meat of the fowl from discoloring put it in a finely woven bag – it will cook just the same, and the broth will not be affected.

Start with cold water; figure about a quart of water per pound of meat. Add the meat, vegetables, and seasonings to the water at the same time. Heat the pot over a high flame until the broth comes to a boil, and then turn the heat down and skim the froth that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon.

Fat Rises up From Simmering Broth...

Fat Rises up From Simmering Broth…

Simmer the broth for a couple of hours, or until a fork easily penetrates the meat. Check the seasoning, strain the broth, let it cool, and skim the fat that rises to the surface (the best way to do this is to chill the broth and remove the fat, which will congeal, with a fork). Use the broth to make soups or serve it by itself. When serving plain broth, most Italians will add a couple of tablespoons of fine pasta such as crumbled angel hairs or pastina to the soup pot.

Serve the meat as boiled dinner, with the sauces and vegetables you prefer. Or use the beef to make meatballs.

Note: if you are pressed for time, you can make broth from these ingredients in a pressure cooker, in about thirty-five minutes. The result isn’t quite as good, but it’s much faster.

Canederli di Magro, Meatless Canederli

Canederli As a Side Dish

Canederli As a Side Dish

Canederli, known as Knodel in German, are flavored bread balls, and are a staple food in the Alto Adige, where they are either served in broth or as a side dish.

And indeed, while these are good in broth they will also work well dry as a side dish, especially with a hearty stew (for example, goulash). If you’re making them as a side dish you’ll want to omit the broth and double the remaining ingredients. The basic recipe is drawn from Anneliese Kompatscher’s La Cucina nelle Dolomiti and will serve 4:

  • 3/4 pound (300g) day-old bread, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (60 g) unsalted butter
  • About a cup (250 ml) milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • Salt
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • A small onion, minced
  • A walnut-sized chunk unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 quart (1 l) meat broth

Dice the bread and sauté it briefly in the 1/4 cup of butter, then transfer it to a bowl.

Beat the eggs and the milk until the mixture is frothy and pour it over the bread. Stir in the parsley, salt and nutmeg. Mince the onion, sauté it in the remaining butter until it is translucent and mix it into the bread too. Let the mixture rest for a half hour.

Set a pot of lightly salted water to boil.

In the mean time, mix the flour, into the bread and — if need be — a little more milk. Wet your hands and shape the mixture into 8 balls roughly the size of golf balls. Simmer the canederli in the water for about 15 minutes, and in the meantime heat your broth. Transfer the cooked canederli to the broth with a slotted spoon, garnish with onion grass, and serve.

Note: If you are not sure you have enough flour in the mixture begin by cooking one canederlo. If it holds, fine. If it dissolves, remake the canederli, adding more flour to the bread mixture.