Zuppa Imperiale

Bolognese Dumpling Cubes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • For



Appears in

Marcella's Italian Kitchen

Marcella's Italian Kitchen

By Marcella Hazan

Published 1986

  • About

If You look into bakers’ windows in Bologna, you may see trays of golden cubes that look like croutons. They are used mainly for soup, but they are not croutons: They are a much tastier, baked composition of flour, Parmesan, butter, eggs, and nutmeg. It is one of those specialties that have remained strictly local, like Romagna’s spaetzlelike passatelli, and that no one elsewhere seems to know about.

As you will find in the serving suggestions below, zuppa imperiale not only makes a fine soup, when used with a good broth, but also a light pastalike dish, or even tidbits to munch with drinks.


  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature, plus additional butter for smearing the cookie sheet
  • cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan), plus additional for the table
  • 3 tablespoons coarse-ground semolina (granular hard-wheat flour)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • A cookie or other baking sheet
  • cups Homemade Meat Broth (preceding recipe)


  1. Turn on the oven to 400°F.
  2. Put the softened butter, grated cheese, semolina, all-purpose flour, salt, eggs, and nutmeg in a bowl and mix all the ingredients thoroughly until they are evenly amalgamated.
  3. Smear a cookie or baking sheet with butter and over it spread the mixture to a thickness of ½ inch or a little less.
  4. Place in the uppermost level of the preheated oven. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes, until it begins to form bubbles and is easily loosened from the bottom of the sheet.
  5. Remove from the oven and transfer from the cookie sheet to a cutting board or counter top to cool. When lukewarm, cut into ½-inch squares.
  6. Bring the broth to a boil. Drop in the dumplings, cook them in boiling broth for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let rest for another 5 minutes before ladling into soup plates and serving. Serve with grated cheese on the side.

Additional Serving Suggestions

The cubes alone can be used as one of an assortment of hors d’oeuvres served with apéritifs. After baking the batter and cutting it into cubes, put it back in a 300°F oven to toast for 10 minutes or so. It can be served then, or later at room temperature.

To serve as a pasta course: Before baking, spread the mixture more thinly over the cookie sheet than you would when making it for soup. Bake only 4 minutes. Cut into strips ¼ inch wide and about 6 inches long. Prepare the following sauce: Put 2 or 3 peeled and mashed garlic cloves in a saucepan together with 3 to 4 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves or a sprig of fresh rosemary. Sauté over medium heat until the garlic becomes colored a rich gold. Add half a bouillon cube, crushed. Stir until the bouillon cube has completely dissolved. Turn off the heat. Drop the cheese and egg strips into boiling salted water, cook for 15 to 20 seconds, drain, and toss immediately with the sauce. Serve with grated parmigiano-reggiano.