>Els Galets: Not Just for Christmas

>One of the traditional dishes eaten in Catalonia during Christmastide is the “sopa de Nadal”, or “Christmas soup”. It is perhaps more properly referred to as “sopa de galets i pilota” or “soup of pasta and little meatballs”. On Christmas day, I heartily enjoyed this simple but typical dish, cooked in a savory veal/chicken/beef broth.

Because of Catalonia’s long period of rule in Medieval and Renaissance times over parts of Italy, the Catalan-speaking lands are unique among the kingdoms of Spain in having several of their own native pasta dishes. In addition to the sopa de galets, Catalans have their own versions of cannelloni, pasta de frutti de mare, etc. The resulting fusion of local ingredients with influences modified from their original sources in Naples, Milan, Palermo, and elsewhere are worthy of investigation by foodies.

Galets are an unusually large, ribbed Catalan pasta, in shape somewhat similar to orecchiette pugliese. The sopa de galets – and particularly its pasta component – is such an iconic element of Christmas in Barcelona, that this year the Barcelona City Council commissioned more than two dozen large, two-foot high illuminated sculptures of a galet. These were placed in key public areas around the city for people to enjoy, and have received almost universal acclaim for celebrating both Christmas and local custom in an uniquely Catalan way: in form, traditional, but with a nod to modern and contemporary design as one would expect from a city obsessed with artistic detail.

Here in the States making the sopa de galets would require a bit more work, but last evening I managed to create a reasonable equivalent with products obtained from my local Trader Joe’s. In the fresh pasta section, look for “Trader Joe’s Perline Pasta and Prosciutto”, which should run you about $4.00; it comes in a plastic package and serves two people. Bring the pasta to a boil in about three cups of your preferred broth – chicken, beef, etc. – and serve, along with some crusty bread. It is not exactly the same as the sopa de galets, but it is a reasonable equivalent, especially if you let the pasta boil a little bit too long so as to burst, and allow the little meatballs of cured ham to float in the soup. Bon profit!

“Sopa de galets i pilota” at Can Jordi, Barcelona
on Christmas Day 2009

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