An extra comforting “couplet” of comfort food.
by Ari Weinzweig
I give Tammie full credit for getting me thinking about this one. She brought it up the other evening, and the next day we had it for dinner. I’m glad we did! Pasta cooked in a terrific bone-broth is darned hard to beat this time of year—two of the most comforting foods I can imagine, pasta and broth, all in one super comforting bowl. (And the leftovers are lovely the next day too—when you use artisan pasta, it holds up well even after it’s been cooked.)
A traditional Italian dish.
The most typical way you’d eat this dish in Italy would be in the area of Bologna as tortellini en brodo. Here’s my friend Elizabeth Minchilli’s write up on it, excerpted from her great book, Eating My Way Through Italy. Even Elizabeth, who’s lived in Italy for decades and is a great cook, confesses in the piece that she never makes her own tortellini. Of course, Elizabeth lives in Italy where she can just go to the store to buy high quality, handmade options. What I made at home is a simpler, but still super tasty version that works well for folks like us living in the Midwest.
It’s all about good broth!
To make the dish as good as it can be, of course, requires great raw materials. You can use any kind of broth you like, but it needs to be a really good broth. As Elizabeth says, “This dish is ALL about the brodo, so no ready-made store bought. Sorry. That’s my final word.” You do buy the Deli’s terrific chicken broth “at the store,” but it’s homemade, so I’m confident it fits the bill for my friend Elizabeth. You can also use homemade beef broth, or, if you want to go meatless, you can make a mushroom or vegetable stock. At our house we’ve been making broth with the bones after we eat all the meat from the Roadhouse’s amazing whole pit-smoked chickens, and that’s what we used to cook the pasta the other evening.
How we make ours at home.
To prepare the dish, you’ll want a good amount of broth, probably a quart per person, plus “one quart for the pot” since the pasta will absorb some of the liquid when it cooks. When you heat up the broth, add a big chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano rind to the pot to flavor it even further. Bring the broth to a boil. Check for salt—you’ll need it to be well salted so that the pasta will be properly seasoned while it’s cooking. Add the pasta to the boiling liquid—Tammie and I prefer “short cuts” like maccheroni or penne, but you can use spaghetti, or tiny pasta like orzo or Alphabeta. Add about a quarter pound of dry pasta per person, stir well, and keep the pot boiling, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking. Warm some pasta bowls and set them by the stove. When the pasta is al dente, ladle both pasta and broth into each bowl. Though it’s not typical in the region of Bologna, I like to add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over top. Grind on some good black pepper, and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Grate on a good amount of Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve with soup spoons. Take a deep breath off the bowl before you eat. The whole thing is, for me, about as comforting as it gets.