I’ve written a little over at the Times about my recent illness and comfort food.
But one thing I didn’t mention was what must be among the most soothing dishes ever: pasta in brodo.
There’s some history here. In case you were wondering, I’m not – at least to my knowledge – Italian. (My family tree looks like a 3-month old shrub, so no one really knows.) Yet when I was young, my mother made me pastina – which is essentially couscous without the cachet – when I was sick. Pastina and butter. God, I can taste it now.Fast forward, oh, 30 years, when I began really learning about the breadth and depth of the world of pasta. (Now that I think of it, there’s another post on this very subject, which will include a little about my first visit to Rome; but I digress. You’ll see it before too long.) There, in Parma, I was served my first bowl of pasta in brodo: skinny pasta – angel-hair-thickness - quite undercooked, in a bowl of super-delicious stock. (They often use capons in Parma for stock, and what I’d say about that is: Wow.)
With a boatload of Parmesan.
The thing is, you need the good Parmesan, which is easy enough, and you need the good stock, which of course is easy enough to make, but not that easy to keep around. (As I’ve said before, it’s not the difficulty of making stock that’s the problem, it’s the speed at which it disappears: Once you make it, you use it, and then you have to make it again. And the frequency with which you use it is directly proportional to the amount you have. More stock, more usage.)
So. I was sick. One thing I had was time. I made stock – twice. And I ate pasta in brodo – three times. Best stuff there is. (Ok, there is, of course, tortellini in brodo as well. Even better.) The only keys are these: Cook the pasta in water until it is way underdone, still practically crunchy. Finish cooking it in stock, but still – keep it underdone; it will continue to cook, and you do not want it mushy. (Unless you do, which is fine with me – I’m not the pasta police.)
And then top it with a load of Parmesan. Something we did not have back in the days of pastina and butter.