As you read this, I am recovering from a surgery on my ear that took place on Friday.
As the procedure grew nearer, Tony had begun to ask me what kind of food I would like to eat during my recovery.
This is the second surgery I've had on my ear this year, and it can wreak havoc on my taste buds for a while afterward. I needed to focus on simple, comfort foods.
So when Tony asked, I thought for a while and decided that I wanted his mother's chicken noodle soup, which we call "Mama Mia's Brodo." Brodo means broth in Italian, and Tony's mother, Marianna, would make this soup for him and his siblings throughout the winter months when they were growing up.
Anytime one of them would even sneeze, his mother would make her brodo for the whole family. The soup instantly made them feel better, not just because of its nutritional value, but because of the love she shared through food.
"Whenever I think of her brodo, it's like she's here, hugging me," Tony says.
With a testimonial like that, how could I not want brodo as my go-to recovery food? In fact, when Tony was recently talking to his mother about the upcoming surgery, she told him to be sure to "Make-a da brodo for her, Anthony!"
In our 19 years of marriage, I have observed the special relationship Sicilians have with food and their belief that it brings more to our lives than just mere sustenance. As I talked with Tony more about his mother's brodo, I began to understand why the Italians believe this soup has healing powers.
Brodo is simple to make, but don't let that fool you. It's so much more than just a soup. Brodo is like three meals in one: a soup, of course, but beyond that you can make a second meal with the chicken and turkey breasts, as well as the cooked vegetables. And then you can save the strained liquid and use it as a stock for other soups, sauces or even a nice risotto.
Last week, Tony made a huge batch of Mama Mia's Brodo, and we have enjoyed several bowls together throughout the weekend.
The flavors of the brodo unfold in layers that belie its simple nature. The heartiness of the poultry, the subtle infusion of flavors from the boiled carrots, onions, celery and potatoes, and the delicate burst of tangy seasoning from the cheese and pepper all blend together into one perfect, healing hug. I feel loved, which makes me feel better. I may need to make this soup for Tony once I'm back to normal.
To make Mama Mia's Brodo, you will need a large stock pot and about three hours to complete the process. For a truly authentic touch, garnish the soup with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a little crushed black pepper. For Tony, it wouldn't be his mother's brodo without these two ingredients.
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is a premium grade of Parmesan, and is available in most local grocery stores. While often expensive, we have found very good, affordable Parmigiano-Reggiano at Sam's Club in Fargo.
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com or http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com
Mama Mia's Brodo
Serves: 4 to 6
1 package Acini di Pepe or Ditalini noodles, cooked al dente
1 large split turkey breast, approximately 2 pounds, skin removed
1 large split chicken breast, approximately 2 pounds, skin removed
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut in half
2 large carrots, peeled (whole)
2 large celery stalks (whole)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
1 bay leaf
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut in half
1 bunch fresh parsley
4 to 5 quarts water
Kosher salt for seasoning (about 1 tablespoon)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or any fresh parmesan cheese) and freshly cracked black pepper to garnish
Combine all ingredients, excluding the salt and garnish items, in a large stock pot over high heat and bring to a boil, skimming the foam and fat from the surface. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, approximately two hours. This step helps to bring clarity to the broth. Add the kosher salt about an hour into this process. If you have not yet cooked the pasta, this is a good time to get it ready.
Remove the turkey and chicken breasts, as well as any other large ingredients, from the liquid. Set the breasts, carrots and potatoes aside for later use. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into another pot and continue to cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until hot.
While the soup is cooking, remove the meat from any bones and cut the breasts and vegetables into small-diced pieces. When ready to serve, place a small amount of cooked pasta, carrot, potato, chicken and turkey into each bowl and then cover with the hot broth. Garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper; serve, and enjoy.
Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for up to 2 months.
• In a pinch, you can cook the pasta in the broth to save time.
• If freezing to enjoy at a later date, you can cut a fresh carrot, potato and cooked chicken/turkey breast into small, even pieces and cook right in the broth before serving.
• Keep a supply of the broth in the freezer to use as chicken stock in other recipes.