February 27, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Winter oddities

By |2018-03-21T19:04:12+01:00January 27th, 2015|"In Provincia"|
Gluten-free passatelli can be part of a soup or pasta dish.

’ve come down with a severe case of post-holiday blues. I just got back from a gorgeous tropical vacation and I now feel like I’ve been exiled to a cold moon. After the clamor of Bangkok’s streets our Umbrian mountain seems desolate. I can also whine: I’m nursing an inflamed tendon in my right foot. And no, I didn’t hurt it while diving with Nemo in the reefs of the Andman Sea. It’s the result of logging too many kitchen hours — and not even sipping mojitos at exotic beachside cafes healed it.

At this point you might be asking about the good news. Well, here it is. I’ve discovered the “carbonara hot pot,” which I bet you’ve never heard of. It came as news to me until I saw it mentioned in a Thai TV report on hot pot trends in Japan. Life is all about learning. I had no idea, for example, that more than half the Japanese population had hot pot dishes more than once weekly, or that they’d introduced novel flavors including tangerine and carbonara.

So what’s a carbonara hot pot? I think (but can’t be sure) it’s an egg-flavored soup in which you boil bacon — along with mushrooms, udon, miso, sake and any other respectable hot pot ingredients. It couldn’t have less to do that beautiful creamy, luscious, rich, peasant pasta dish known to the world as carbonara. To me, that makes it all the more fascinating.

Most Italians would find the concept of a carbonara “soup” unfathomable. I, on the other hand, see it as incredibly funny. In fact, just thinking about it cheers me up enough to keep my post-vacation blues at bay.

That’s because I’ve spent decades telling people what authentic Italian food really is. I can still jump on my Italian soapbox and announce we’d never boil bacon as part of egg soup. At the same time, the fact that a carbonara hot pot exists is a compliment to Italian cuisine. It’s a measure of the popularity of our food. It may be a little odd in terms of methodology, but it’s still a compliment.

Speaking of oddities (winter is a good time for them), here’s a gluten free recipe for passatelli, a kind of rounded, worm-like pasta from Central Italy. As with all GF recipes, this one uses peculiar ingredients to imitate the real thing. And it actually works quite well. While the shape that emerges has little to do with “normal” passatelli, the taste comes close to resembling the real thing, and the pasta are fabulously easy to digest.

Gluten free passatelli (serves 1)


  • 1 egg.

  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan.

  • 1 tablespoon polenta flour.

  • 1 tablespoon psyllium husks.

  • 1 tablespoon of instant mashed potato.

  • Grated zest of 1/4 lemon or a pinch of nutmeg.

  • Pinch of salt.

  • 1/2 liter chicken stock.


— Whisk all the ingredients into a thick batter and refrigerate until firm.

— Bring the stock to a boil.

— Directly over the stock, press the passatelli dough through a wide-holed ricer or spaetzle maker Simmer for about one minute, until all the pasta surfaces. Serve immediately.

Have this with red wine, please, no saké allowed — especially not in the soup.

About the Author:

Letizia Mattiacci wrote the "In Provincia" column from 2011 through 2019.