Pastina in brodo – The taste of comfort & love

 

A warming bowl of broth (brodo in Italian) or stock can be a welcomed homecoming on a cooler autumnal evening and the perfect foundation and carrier of many dishes. A well-made brodo can take tortellini pasta to the next level, risotto would be full of flavour and a simple soup, just incredible. The simplicity of having a few vegetables bubbling away slowly on the stove top always takes me back to my nonnas cosy retro kitchen in Bedford when I was a little girl, but even more recently to my parents’ farmhouse kitchen this late summer.

Over the last few weeks of my father Roccos life the only meal he could manage to eat, or should I say be fed would more than often, be a bowl of pastina. Pastina is an Italian soup of tiny pasta that is cooked in broth. Now to many, pastina is a reminiscent dish of childhood, they look on it with great fondness and recollect their love and continued love of pastina in brodo, as adults we all still do. My papa however did not feel the love. There were not many dishes he wouldn’t eat but pastina and pasta with potatoes were firmly at the top of his list.

Due to Parkinson’s disease, needs must and so with a buttoned mouth and determination he ate pastina with freshly made brodo most days thanks to mums wonderful cooking. This would never heal papa because alas it wasn’t possible but the aroma, simplicity and love that went into every bowl would most certainly comfort his little hunger.

Writing a recipe for brodo isn’t really rocket science, and the fundamental basic ingredients can be changed to suit your taste, for example I always add a potato or two and my mum never does as she prefers a clearer looking stock.  You can also add an egg to your bowl of pastina just before you serve; crack the egg into the stock and pasta, use a fork and scramble the egg, then serve. Adding the egg thickens the brodo and adds protein, perfect medicinally. You can also add a little passata (sieved tomato sauce) to the stock for a red tomato sauce especially if the stock comes from leftovers.

Below is a very basic vegetable stock recipe that I use and amended as required. I was fortunate enough to spoon feed my papa his final bowl of pastina at the beginning of the month before he left this world for another, he said it was the best bowl of pastina he had ever eaten, these words mean so much to my mum, the words of love. RIP papa, may you continue to enjoy pastina amongst the clouds. Thank you for the memories.

Have fun with the recipe and make your own memories to last a lifetime.

 

Vegetable brodo

1 large white onion, quartered, skin on

2 carrots, chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, squashed, skins on

2 small potatoes, cubed

3 tomatoes, quartered

Small bunch parsley, chopped

A few basil leaves

Tomato vines (if you have any)

Parmigiano Reggiano rind (optional)

Celery leaves, chopped

Salt & pepper to season

Add all the vegetables into a medium saucepan and cover with water, I leave the skins on for more flavour. For a clearer stock, please peel the vegetables.

Simmer for two hours over a medium heat.

Once cooked, mash the vegetables in the pan, this will add lots more flavour.

Pass the stock and vegetables through a sieve and put down all the goodness with a potato masher, making sure you scrape the base of the sieve and add the pulp to the stock.

Discard the vegetable pulp, check and adjust the stock for seasoning. Make pastina.

 

Carmela’s tip: For a simple chicken stock add the carcass of a roast chicken along with a few thighs. Once the stock is ready, pull the chicken off the bones and add the tender meat to the pastina or enjoy the thighs with your next course.