Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tortellini In Brodo

Something simple.

This is quite the comfort food.

It's been a crumby day, nobody likes you, your last client gave you a rubber cheque, let's go down the list.

You need some "brodo".

This is an easy one. Just Ask my Niece.

After the "jump".

Tortellini In Brodo

Ok, so what's "Brodo"??? And, no, it's not Angelina Jolie's new adoptee.

C'mon, pasta in broth is all this is. Sounds really boring, but that's for those luddites out there who have no imagination.

This is a great comfort food for when you're sick with the flu or just coming out of knee surgery and cannot even make it to the front door to pay the Chinese food take out guy.

I prefer meat Tortellini for this, but cheese or spinach filled pasta work just as well. The Tortellini gives you a nice bite without becoming gummy when cooked in the broth. Tortellini comes either frozen or fresh, depending on the market that you frequent. I like the frozen varieties for this due to the ability to control the cooking time, but the fresh kind works great. See the Variations section below for full instructions.

Now, Ravioli would be a good substitute, if you cannot find Tortellini, provided that they are the small kind. Some manufactureres make large ones that are the size of a handkerchief, a little too much for this application, but that's just me. Ravioli are great with a robust meat sauce, but not so good when "braised" in a broth like we're doing here. The biggest drawback, if you choose to use Ravioli, is a difference in texture, but that call is entirely up to you. Check out the Variations section below, for some ideas.

Regardless, the basic procedure is the same.


A Medium Soup Pot (3 qt. or  3 l.) with a Tight Fitting Lid

Two (2) Cereal Bowls
You must have a few somewhere.

A Sharp Kitchen Knife
C'mon? Is there any other kind??

A Wooden Cutting Board

A Box Grater or a "Micro-Plane" grater, if you are posh

A Heavy Duty Paper Towel
Please. Don't be cheap. Keep Weyerhaeuser in business.

A Wooden Spoon
We all have one from various childhood traumas.

A Ladle
The other emotional scar from childhood.

Some convenient Silverware
Spoons, guys. This is not rocket science.

A few Soup Bowls for Service


One (1) pound (500 g.) of Frozen Meat Tortellini, in a bag, not thawed
Now, Spinach or Cheese filled Tortellini work great if you can't find meat filled ones. I usually find them in the frozen food aisle at the supermarket, but, if you cannot find frozen ones, some fresh tortellini will work fantastically, they're usually found in the dairy case. Check out the Variations sections below for some suggestions.

Three (3) boxes or cans (that's 96 oz. or 3.0 l. or so, ya'll) of Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
In a perfect world, you would have some of your homemade dark rich chicken broth, at the ready, in your freezer, but that's in a perfect world. And, as we all know, the planet is not perfect. If you are really against Chicken Broth, you can use Vegetable Stock, but with a reduced scope in flavour. See the Variations sections section for a pure vegan option. If you are really intent on making this dish, and all you have is Water, move on, sorry, I have no other ideas for you.

A Bunch of Green Onions or Scallions

Freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano Cheese
Use the real stuff guys. The pre-grated and packaged stuff tastes like cardboard. So, get with the program. Fresh is best, and the whole lump of cheese keeps for a very long time, so don't worry. Spend the money. You will be rewarded.

Xtra Virgin Olive Oyl
Popeye won't mind.

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Some Pepperoncino (Optional)
You know, the red pepper flakes leftover from last night's take out Pizza? Use that.

Some Classical Music

Crank up the Classical Music. It will soothe the mood, and, who doesn't like Vivaldi anyway?

Fill the Soup Pot with the three (3) boxes Chicken Broth, or twice as many cans (if you're going that direction), and place it over a stovetop burner on high heat.

Don't worry, and let things come to a boil.

While you're waiting for the broth to boil, rinse the Green Onions or Scallions under cold water. Using your Sharp Kitchen Knife, chop and mince up the Scallions into small bits and place them into a Cereal Bowl.

Take the Paper Towel and lay it on top of the Wooden Cutting Board. Using your Box Grater (or "Micro-Plane", if being posh), grate up about a half (1/2) a cup or so of Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese onto the Paper Towel, don't worry about measuring this, a little more never hurt anybody. Place the grated cheese into another convenient Cereal Bowl and cover it with the now slightly used Paper Towel.

Make yourself a cockytale and enjoy the Classical Music while you wash up the grater, knife and cutting board. Gotta keep the kitchen clean, y'all.

When the broth is at a boil, give it a season with a few good grinds of Black Pepper.

Open up the frozen bag of Tortellini, and pour them into the boiling broth. Give everytrhing a good stir with your trusty Wooden Spoon to keep the Torrtellini from sticking to themselves, they're like that, ya'know.

Let the broth return to a boil, it takes about three (3) to four (4) minutes. After everything has returned to a boil, gently stir the Tortellini every so often for about five (5) to seven (7) minutes. After about seven (7) minutes, turn off the heat and place the Tight Fitting Lid onto the pot.

Forget about it for about ten (10) minutes.

After about ten (10) minutes, fish out a tortellini, using a convenient Spoon, and give it a taste to see if it's done. They should be silky and tender.

When everything is copacetic, it's now time for Service.

Using your Ladle, spoon out some Brodo (that's Broth, y'all) and some of the cooked Tortellini into a Soup Bowl. Sprinkle everything with some of the grated Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese and add a small topping of the minced Scallions or Green Onions from the various Cereal Bowls. Serve with some garlic crostini (toasty crusty bread rubbed with raw garlic) and a drizzle of your best Xtra Virgin Olive Oyl.

Ta Da!

Serves : Two (2) as a main course, plus an extra lunch.

Tortellini can have many fillings and textures. I really love the meat filled kind with the green spinach wrapping, but the red bell pepper ones are great too, and the pumpkin filled are a neat variation. If you can find them, the Porcini Mushroom filled Tortellini are truly phenomenal, so, experiment. Now, Tortelloni, a larger sized cousin of Tortellini, will work well, just pay attention to the cooking time, they take a few minutes longer to get succulent.

If you are using fresh Tortellini from the grocery store, adjust the cooking time as per the package directions, and serve immediately when everything is tender, there's no need to let it sit for ten (10) minutes.

Now, for Ravioli. These are great and come in many different flavours, sizes, and are available either fresh or frozen. I find that, due to their thinner skin, they can get a little gummy when left in the broth. If you choose to use Ravioli for this, the Brodo should be eaten immediately when the Ravioli are just tender. If left in the warm broth too long, i.e. if you are planning on eating it the next day, they can become too soft and disintegrate into mush; if that's what you're going for, then by all means go ahead, but I prefer things "al dente" (not the Baseball player) to add some texture. So, serve the Ravioli in Brodo "a la minute" (that's at the last minute, y'all) for perfection.

For a real Variation, some fresh vegetables can be added to this at the last minute. Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Asparagus, or Green Peas are all wonderful additions. Many of these can be found frozen and ready to go. If you want to add some frozen vegetables, toss them into the pot, still frozen, after the broth and Tortellini has returned to a boil. Let the frozen vegetables and the Tortellini cook together until tender. Garnish with the cheese and Green Onions and enjoy yourself. If you are fortunate enough to have fresh veggies, add them at the last moment before you place the lid on while the Tortellini rests; the hot broth will gently cook whatever you have added.

My personal favorite is to use Bok Choy or Shanghai Cabbage as a vegetable for this dish. These are a wonderful bitter vegetable with a very mild flavor and are often available in many large supermarkets. Rinse the Bok Choy thouroughly under cold water to remove any stray grit. I generally like to cook the Bok Choy seperately from the Tortellini to maintain their texture. So, when the broth is at a boil. add about four (4) to six (6) whole Bok Choy or Shanghai Cabbages to the pot and cook them until the root end is just tender, about five (5) to seven (7) minutes, just pierce them with a fork to see if they are done. Fish them out with a pair of Kitchen Tongs when just shy of tender and place them into a handy Cereal Bowl. Then, cook the Tortellini in the same broth. When the Tortellini are done, return the Bok Choy to the pot for a few moments to re-warm them and serve as above.

For those of you completely opposed to any kind of animal broth, you can use plain old water, but with a twist. This dish works great with a dried mushroom broth. So, how do you find that? The dried mushrooms won't tell. Ideally, and we all know what that means, you can make a rich broth using dried Porcini or dried Shitake mushrooms for a very flavorful medium; it's even better if you mix up the types of mushrooms that you use, go with whatever you can find. Simply reconstitute your dried mushrooms with some boiling water and let everything steep, covered, for about a half an hour or so. Fish out the now plumped up mushrooms and chop them into large chunks and place them into a Cereal Bowl. Take the resulting liquid and, using some cheese cloth, strain out the grit and particulate matter through a sieve or colander, into a saucepan. Thin out the concentrated mushroom stock with some fresh water and bring it to a boil. Add your frozen Tortellini and cook them as above. Just before the Tortellini is tender, add the chopped plumped up mushrooms, with any accumulated juices, to the pot, give everything a gentle stir, and let your Brodo relax. Garnish with the cheese and Scallions and serve.

There you go.

©2009 Wait At The Bar, Inc.

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