Italian soul for the winter
Ripped straight from the words of House Stark, “Winter is Coming”. And there’s no better way to spend the cold nights than huddled up under a blanket, eating a luscious warm meal and maybe even reading a book (…not necessarily the Game of Thrones books though).
Being a student living on a tight budget, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cut back on the warm food for the cold nights. What if I told you that you can eat a meal that is relatively cheap, Italian (everyone loves Italian food), good for the winter, healthy *and* easy to make?
“Absurd!” “Liar!” “Heathen!”
I know, I know, but hear me out; I didn’t believe it at first when I was a kid but if you just follow this simple (albeit time-consuming) recipe then you will have that perfect meal for those cold nights or those lavish dinner parties I know so many students throw…
You Will Need:
– Onions x2
– Garlic x1
– Carrots x1 Bag
– Celery x1 stick
– Skinless Chicken Legs on Bone x4 (minimum)
– Plum Tomatoes x1 Pack
– Tomato Puree x1 Tube
– Sun Dried Tomato Paste
– Chicken Stock Cubes
– Tiny Pasta (either Ditalini, Farfalline or Tripolini will be perfect)
– Black Pepper
– Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
This dish, effectively a stew-like soup, is called Brodo Di Pollo. The casual name for it however, refers to its chicken-soup-like state, Pastina. Follow these 10 easy steps to satisfy your soul for the winter months:
Add the chicken to a big pan of water that is filled to the top and bring that to a simmer. While this is cooking, chop up your onions and 2 cloves of garlic until they are relatively small and fine. Add them to the pan with a nice portion of salt.
While this is happening, why not boil the kettle for a cup of tea… Just kidding. But you do need to boil the kettle; we’ll get to that part in step 4. While the kettle is going, take your vegetables; your carrots, stick of celery and your plum tomatoes and chop it all up.
Peel your carrots first and cut them up into small chunks, same with your celery. Cut the plum tomatoes in half, they’re small enough already. Make sure that you have washed the carrots and celery thoroughly before Step 3 to clean off any dirt and excess starch.
Now add your veg to the same pan. This should already be boiling, so once you’ve added the veg, turn the heat down to a relatively low flame. Make sure to give it a good stir, mixing it all in and all that jazz.
Now for the fun bit. Remember that kettle you boiled back in step 2? Yeah. We need that now. Source a measuring jug (or a mug/cup will suffice) and place a chicken stock cube within it. Add about 200ml of that boiling water to it, making sure to give it a nice stir. This will break up the stock cube, making it easier to mix within our cauldron of flavour.
Pour this slowly in to the pan. If it looks like you’ve put too much water in (from the start) then just take another cup and scoop a little bit out. Such an elegant process, right?
As you stir around all the veg, chicken and stock, add some salt and a dash of sugar – the secret ingredient to an Italian-based pasta sauce, by the way – and add a good few dollops of sun dried tomato paste (Ideally, the best paste is by Sacla but any will do).
Make sure you have a tube of tomato puree too. Add a fair amount of this to the pan and mix it together. This, along with the paste, gives it that vivid colour of red as well as the base flavour of the Brodo.
… Give it a good 3 or 4 hours of cooking together. Make sure to keep checking it; watching that it doesn’t boil over, adding more seasoning or paste if you think it needs more colour/flavour, more veg if you think it looks a little thin and so forth. You’ll notice after about the 2 hour mark, the chicken will perhaps start to flake off the bone, that’s normal and in fact easier come serving!
When you reach the 3 hour mark, it’s time to get out a separate pan of boiling water. This will be for the pasta. Add the pasta and wait until its soft enough, not too al dente – the softer the better. It should take 10-12 minutes.
While the pasta is boiling, it’s time to return to our cauldron of winter-some flavours. Turn off the heat and get out: another pan, a sieve and a ladle.
This stage is one of the most arduous… which says how easy this is to make! All you have to do is place the sieve over the empty new pan (any sieve will just hook over the lip of the pan) and ladle in the broth in, vegetables and all. Make sure to squeeze all you can out of the vegetables (just push the ladle on them) to get as much flavour out of it as you can. Fill this pan to as high as you can for now…
This involves just taking the chicken out of the pan and onto a plate/board. Allow it to cool and then shred the meat off the bone with a fork. Once this is done, add the chicken into the newly strained pan.
Drain the pasta through a colander and shake out any excess water. Once this is done, add the pasta slowly (to avoid a splash back) into the pan and give it a stir.
Add a bit of black pepper to season it and grate some Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese) while it’s still hot to give it that extra sooth taste of Italy.
Now ladle out the masterpiece into a bowl, sit back and enjoy. This would feed about 4 people easily and if you want more, just strain more of the veg until there is nothing left. Being from an Italian family and growing up in an Italian household, you pick up a few things about cooking; the best advice I can give is to experiment with your ingredients and to just keep a close eye on what is happening.
If you do this, then you might just become the next Gino D’Acampo… well, most likely not, but no harm in trying!