This post is all about the pleasures of a well-made brodo. In Italy brodo means broth and in its most basic form is an icon of Italian cooking. A foundational stock that is made from bones of beef, veal or chicken or the shells/ bony skeletons of seafood infused with fresh vegetables and aromatics. The most favored being cappelletti in brodo, a classic Northern Italian comfort food traditionally served around Christmas or New Year made with caps of fresh pasta swimming in a homemade chicken broth. There’s nothing more warming for the winter holidays.
Recipes for a basic broth are culinary landmarks on the Mother Road of world cuisine. Anthony Bourdain called it a blank culinary canvas, an enchanted liquid. He refers to meat brodo as the “dark universal stock”, a broth of bones that can be magically manipulated into soups (yes there is a difference between brodo and zuppa). With further uses in stews, sauces and in the making of an Italian risotto.
Brodo di manzo beef broth starts with roasting the bones. Slightly rub beef bones with a little olive oil and place them in a heavy roasting pan. Roast the bones for about 20 minutes and continue to raost until bones are brown. Roasting bones vs. not roasting bones is a preference although most cooks/chefs believe that the initial roasting of the bones caramelizes them and deepens the flavor.
Brodo di pollo (chicken brodo) is best made using the whole chicken. In Italy they would use a gallina (a whole bowling fowl). As in a beef broth celery, carrots, a whole onion studded with cloves, fresh parsley, peppercorns and sea salt are added. I only add tomatoes to my beef broth although some cooks will add them to a chicken brodo as well.
In Italy, our Italian cousins always add a miraculous cube of flavoring when making brodo called dado (soup cube). The closest ingredient to this in the States would be a Knorr-Classic Stock Cube, either beef or chicken. No shame. These foil wrapped cubes are a familiar ingredient used by Italian chefs and casalinga homestyle cooks throughout Europe. A quick and practical addition to boost and balance the flavor of the broth.
Concerns about the fat content of roasted bone marrow? It’s been noted that marrow is a source of nutritionally valuable fats. It’s also very nutritious, containing iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, trace amounts of thiamin and niacin and contains substances that boost and maintain our body’s immune system and helps our body stay healthy. If you are bothered by all the fatty bits found in your brodo you can skim off the fat or let the stock pot cool and remove the fat on top. Or you can serve it alla stracciatella by quickly whisking an egg into the stock. Stracciatella is Italian for “little strands” and whisking the egg forms little tail-like strands that attract all the fatty bits and other solids, drawing them out of the liquid, “clarifying” it, and making even the cloudiest stock clear to the bottom of the bowl. Th popularity of bone broth seems to support the idea that having a stock pot of Italian brodo brewing in the kitchen is an old world tradition for a nourishing and restorative winter menu.