Now that it’s officially Fall, it’s time for some soul warming comfort food.

After a trip last year to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Gothamist found a new comfort dish that we needed to make at home. It was a pure, simple and clear chicken broth (aka brodo) that was very light and soft, yet full of a deep, intense chicken flavor. Bologna, one of the major cities in Emilia, is known for inventing tortellini, and these little pork filled beauties (along with another Emilian contribution to the food world, Parmigiano Reggiano) are typically the sole accompaniment to this brodo.

After making brodo for our friends frequently, Gothamist was thrilled to see it on the menu during a recent visit to ‘Cesca. Tom Valenti, one of our favorite chefs, specializes in comfort classics, so it makes sense that he had a version of the legendary brodo on his menu. Rather than the tortellini, ‘Cesca features little juicy yet crusty meatballs and a tiny star shaped pasta called pastina in the brodo. This makes the dish even more of a comfort food for Gothamist, as we remember enjoying a steaming bowl of the rich and eggy pastina as a kid.

This is a simple yet satisfying dish that is easily made at home. You do need to simmer your brodo carefully for three hours in a pot on the stove for perfection, but Gothamist did this with only five minutes worth of prep effort while watching the Yanks beat on the Sox. While slowly simmering, the aromas of the brodo will wow everyone around you, so print out this Gothamist Recipe and invite some people over……

Gothamist Recipe


Meatballs in Brodo
with homemade chicken broth, pastina, Parmigiano Reggiano

As mentioned, you need to make your brodo either the day before or at least four hours before dinner. Despite checking on your barely simmering broth, there are only the meatballs to make and pastina to cook. This recipe is also a gift that keeps on giving - you will have a few more containers of brodo left over to freeze and enjoy with a simple reheat.

You could serve four people and still have leftovers with the amount of ingredients you have below, but we’ll only use about half of the ingredients, with the rest being saved in the freezer for a future brodo night.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe generously serves two to three people with leftovers of broth to serve as many as six. You’ll also be able to make enough meatballs and pastina with this quantity for six as well. We recommend using half of the below and freezing for future brodo nights.

Three packages of chicken soup bones (see below)
1 package of ground beef/pork/veal combo (see below)
1 box pastina (see below)
1 wedge of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 bunch fresh parsley
2 carrots
1 medium/large onion
bay leaves
whole peppercorns
1 large clove garlic
1 can of plain bread crumbs
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
6 eggs
unsalted butter
extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle vegetable oil

Estimated cost of ingredients: $25 at Fairway

Shopping for the Ingredients
You can find chicken soup bones pre-packed in most decent markets in the city. Fairway has Murray’s free range fresh bones and pieces for a whopping .69 cents for most packages. The ground meat combo is also often found pre-packed in most markets as well. The combination of meats for meatballs is very traditional for Italians as it helps make them moist and light. Pastina is also very easy to find in your pasta aisle.



Put the Brodo on to Simmer
Preparing the brodo only takes a few minutes, but you need three hours for it to be perfect. The two most important things you need to do while it is simmering is 1) never touch or stir the chicken until it’s done 2) don’t let it boil. These two things will not result in a clear brodo. It’s hardly the end of the world if it’s not clear, but it the clear texture of the broth makes it that much better. So that being said....

Peel the carrots and chop into rough medium sized chunks. Do the same for the onion. Take out your bay leaves and have your whole black pepper and kosher salt ready. Add a glug of olive oil to the bottom of a large pasta type pot and turn on heat to medium (six ½ quart minimum for this recipe. If your pot is smaller, only get three packets of chicken or invest in a larger pot – you need one).

Next, get your chicken ready. Open each package and season with kosher salt and get ready to add to the pot.

First, add the chopped onion, carrot, two bay leaves, a sprinkle of black peppercorns and a pinch of salt to the oil. Let sweat (but not brown) for 3 or 4 minutes, just until the onion is translucent.

Add all of your chicken to the pot. Fill the pot with cold water until barely covering the chicken. You should not have the chicken fully submerged in water or you will have a diluted stock. Turn the heat onto medium low. Check back on your brodo occasionally to monitor the simmering. If you see frequent and violent bubbling, turn it to low.


Strain the Brodo
It’s three hours and your apartment smells of a fragrant chicken broth. Turn off the heat and let it steep and cool for about 20 minutes. After that, you’ll need to strain the broth. There are a couple ways to do that. The best is with a fine meshed chinois. They come with a stand and are very easy to use. You can also set up a colander in the sink on top of another pot or large glass bowl to strain the large chicken pieces. You should then strain the remaining broth through a small hand-held fine mesh strainer in batches into another large container (to ensure a clear stock). The large chinois allows you to do this all at the same time.

Skim the Brodo
Once the broth has been strained, let it rest in your large bowl or pot. Most of the fat will naturally rise to the top of the broth. With a large ladle, skim the oil and fat off of the broth. The fat should turn out to be at least an inch of brodo from the top – you’ll be able to notice the difference in color if you are using a see-through container.

Form the Meatballs
Chop about one handful or fresh parsley. Grate about ¼ cup of the Parmigiano Reggiano. Take out one egg and your can of breadcrumbs.

Line a large baking pan with tin foil.

Take one half of each of the three meats and place in a medium sized bowl. Crack the egg into the bowl. Add the parsley and the cheese to the meat in bowl. Season with two pinches salt some ground pepper. Add three tablespoons of the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture and mix with your hands until incorporated into a large ball.

Grab small amount of mixture and form into small golf ball sized balls. This size will allow you to get a nice exterior without overcooking. Line them into your pan.

Wash up. You can make these a few fours and set in your fridge until about a half hour before serving.


Fry the Meatballs
Fill a small saucepan (pictured below for size) half way with the vegetable oil. Turn the heat to medium and get it hot for about 3-4 minutes. While you wait, take a handful of bread crumbs and sprinkle a thin layer on the meatballs in the baking pan. This will add a final layer of crunchiness.

Check the heat of the oil by dropping in pinch of your bread crumbs. If they rise to the top and sizzle, add 5 meatballs. Do not add anymore or they will take longer to cook and get oily/soggy. They should be submerged in the oil. Fry them for about 2 minutes until golden and place onto nearby paper towels. You are not trying to cook them through, as they will finish in the hot broth.

Season them liberally with salt as soon as you take them out, so the salt permeates the ball. Finish the rest of the meatballs in batches – it should only take you about 10 minutes to do this.


Make the Pastina
Get 2 cups of well salted water or lightly salted stock up to a boil and add about 2 cups of pastina to the liquid. Cook for about 3 minutes and drain. Place back into your drained pot and add a few pinches or salt, pepper and a large handful of the grated parm regg cheese.

Finish the Dish
Get a large handful or cheese and a bit of chopped parsley ready to finish the dish.

Add about two large ladles of the broth per person into a small saucepot and warm. When warm, check for seasoning. Add salt, pepper and one small pat of unsalted butter. Heat until incorporated. Add the meatballs (about 5-7 for hungry people) and some of the chopped parsley and turn off the heat.

Place a mound of pastina into a bowl. Ladle the broth around the pastina. Place meatballs around the pastina and add a handlful of the cheese to each dish.