When I lived in my parent’s house we ate brodo (broth) once per week. Sometimes it was made with chicken, sometimes with yearling beef and at other times it was a mixture of the two meats; a few bones were always included.
We always had brodo as the first course and the boiled meat as the second course, and this was always accompanied with salsa verde.
Brodo is popular all over Italy and is considered essential when a member of the household is feeling unwell. It is seen as a restorative food in many other cultures as well.
Often we would have tortellini in brodo, but at other times, my mother added pastina (small pasta); these were either capelli d’angelo (angel’s hair) or thin egg noodles or stelline (small stars) or quadretti (small squares). Most of the time we had or favourite: gnocchetti di semolino floating in our brodo – these are small gnocchi, a specialty from Trieste. Because I spent my childhood there I became an expert gnocchetti maker from an early age.
Lately, with winter colds I have been making brodo and last week I also made gnocchetti. Although making them was second nature to me but next time I make them I will use a coffee spoon to make them smaller.
Beat softened butter and egg with a small wooden spoon until soft and well mixed. Use a small jug, milk saucepan or a bowl with steep sides.
Add the semolina and grated cheese slowly and continue to mix vigorously until perfectly smooth.
Bring the broth to the boil.
Use a wet teaspoon to shape the gnocchetti. Take small quantities of the mixture and slip small oval shapes off the spoon into the boiling broth. Keep the broth on a gentle boil.
Continue shaping the gnocchetti and poaching them until the mixture is finished. The gnocchietti rise to the surface when cooked (about 5 minutes). If cooking large quantities of gnocchetti, to prevent over cooking, take the cooked ones out with a slotted spoon before slipping in the new ones, but with the above amounts this will not be necessary.
Ladle broth and a few gnocchetti into each bowl and present with grated cheese.
The pasta I use is commercially made, but when I eat brodo in Sicily at my zia Niluzza’s (my father’s sister) makes fresh quadrettini (little squares) – she cuts the fresh pasta amazingly quickly.
If you aren’t feeling well, especially if you have an upset stomach Italians say that you are debole di stomaco; this seems to be a common malady with Italians. The home cure is to eat in bianco – white food (bianco is Italian for white). In bianco is the culinary term used to refer to a dish, which is served plain and with little seasoning.
Broth, boiled rice, boiled chicken/veal, certain boiled vegetables, steamed white fish, bistecca di vitello a bagnio maria (veal steak cooked in a baine marie), latte di mandorla (almond milk) and bianco mangiare (dessert= thickened almond milk) are some of the foods which are considered mangiare (food) in bianco.
The perfect in bianco food and the cure for any ailment of course, is brodo (broth).
I usually use a whole, organic chicken and eat the flesh after I have made the broth. If I use a veal shin I also eat the flesh (try it with a salsa verde). If I am eating the meat, I remove the chicken or veal from the broth after about 60-80 minutes of gentle cooking and then evaporate the broth on high heat.
Obviously the more solids, the more taste. To concentrate the flavours, cook the broth for longer and towards the end of cooking, leave it uncovered to evaporate.
If you do not wish to eat the meat, fleshy bones from organic chickens are a suitable substitute. Because stock is the foundation for cooking, the quality of the bones is important, cheap bones from battery hens will not produce flavourful stock and it is likely to be full of concentrated chemicals.
Gallina vecchia fa` buon brodo (Ancient Italian proverb).
An old chicken makes good broth.
Ingredients: 1 large onion, chicken (or carcasses, necks and wings and/or veal bones) salt, peppercorns(optional), celery stick, carrot, 1-2 red tomatoes) and water to cover ingredients.
Processes: Peel and halve the onion, remove obvious fat from meat, clean the celery and carrot (no need to peel as it will be discarded). Add all of these ingredients and the seasoning to a saucepan or stockpot and cover the contents with cold water. Cover with a lid and slowly bring the broth to a boil. Simmer for 2 hours (or up to 3 hours if using large bones), skimming frequently. Strain the broth, discarding solids (unless you are eating the meat).
Today in Venice, Venetians are celebrating the feast day of their patron saint (25 April, the date of the death of San Marco).
Risi e bisi the classic Venetian dish was traditionally offered to the Doge (do not know which one) on April 25, the feast of Saint Mark. This is not surprising, it is spring in the northern hemisphere and peas are one of the symbols of the season.
It is a public holiday in Venice and all sorts of events take place.
Although Venetians celebrate his feast day they also celebrate Liberation Day (liberation from the Nazis at the end of 2nd World War) and Festa del Bòcolo (is a rose bud) and it is customary for all women, not just lovers, to be presented with a bud. The very old legend concerns the daughter of Doge Orso Partecipazio, who was besotted with a handsome man, but the Doge did not approve and arranged for the object of her desire to fight the Turks on distant shores. The loved one was mortally wounded in battle near a rose bush. There he plucked a rose, tinged with his heroic blood and asked for it to be given to his beloved in Venice.
I grew up in Trieste (not far from Venice and in the same region of Italy) and risi e bisi is a staple, traditional dish.
The traditional way of cooking it does not include prosciutto but prosciutto cotto, what we call ham in Australia. Poor tasting ingredients will give a poor result; use a good quality smoked ham. As an alternative some cooks in Trieste use speck, a common ingredient in the region (it tastes more like pancetta). Some of the older Triestini use lard and only a little oil.
My mother also added a little white wine to the soffritto of onion and the ham, but this also would have been a modern addition. The butter is added last of all for taste. Use parmigiano – parmigiano is the cheese used in the north of Italy, pecorino in the south.
The secret is in using good produce, preferably organic, young and freshly picked peas (for their delicate taste) and a good stock. My mother made chicken stock. If she had no stock, she used good quality broth cubes- very common in Northern Italian cooking.
peas (young, fresh), 1 kilo unshelled rice, 300g vialone nano preferably, ham, cubed 50-70g, onion,1 finely cut (I like to use spring onions as well) parmigiano (Reggiano), grated 50g extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup dry white wine, ½ glass (optional), parsley, finely cut, ½ cup butter, 2 tablespoons salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste PROCESSES Shell the peas. Heat the olive oil, add ham and onion and over medium-low heat soften the ingredients. Do not brown. Add the shelled peas, parsley and when they are covered in oil, add very little stock (to soften the peas), cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rice, and stir, add the wine (optional) and evaporate. Keep on adding the hot stock, stirring the rice and adding more stock as it is absorbed. End up with a wet dish (almost soupy and all’onda as Italians say) and with the rice al dente. In fact, the dish should rest for about 5 minutes before it is served so take this into consideration (the rice will keep on cooking and absorb the stock).Addparmesan and butter, stir and serve.