Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pastina in Brodo

So the New Year has started and I am back on a healthy eating mission after a wonderful few weeks of indulgence. My birthday, Christmas, New Year and the holiday period has left me half a stone heavier. But it has been well worth it! 

The weather has been up to all sorts this week with that biting wind fiercely blowing.  What better way to warm up when it's cold outside with baby pasta in a homemade chicken broth or 'pastina in brodo'.  I've had this dish cooked for me many times over the years by various members of my husbands Sicilian family. I have always loved it and learnt how to make it a few years back.  Watch the pasta portions if you are WeightWatching, but overall it is a low fat, healthy but very tasty meal.  My kids absolutely love pastina and it is one of those versatile meals that we can sit down together as a family and all enjoy.  It's also the only food I can get into my 5 year old when he is sick!

You'll need for 3- 4 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids:

  • 6-8 chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 medium to large onion, halved then quartered
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 3-4 sticks of celery, cut into 2 or 4 pieces per stick
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 few parsley stalks
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 vine tomatoes, halved then quartered
  • 250g - 300g baby pasta such as farfalline

What to do:

In a very large saucepan place all the ingredients in and cover to the top with cold water from the tap. It should be around 3 litres but this very much depends on the size of your pan. Place on a high heat and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat a little so it doesn't boil over. After 15-20 minutes use the wooden spoon to press the tomatoes against the side of the pan to extract out all the flavour.

Add the salt, treading cautiously if cooking for children. You can always add more for adult taste later.

After 45 minutes or so, depending on the size of the chicken you should have a delicious tasting chicken stock. Using tongs, remove the chicken carefully and set aside.

Using a large colander and another saucepan, strain the vegetables catching the stock in the new saucepan.  Depending on the size saucepan you used originally you may have leftover stock. I usually have enough to freeze a container full (approx 1 litre) for the kids to have another time, or you have some fabulous homemade stock to use in any other dish requiring it.  To be sure you use the right amount of broth for the quantity of pasta, put 1 litre-ish aside and top up if there is not enough for the next step.

Place the new saucepan with the stock on the heat and bring to a boil. Add the baby pasta and reduce the heat slightly, cooking until the pasta is cooked through. This usually takes about 5-6 minutes. Do not be tempted to speed up the process by cooking the pasta seperately in water! The pasta absorbs all the wonderful flavours from the broth and is what really makes this dish so utterly moreish.

There are a number of ways you can serve this dish. For the kids I chop the chicken and carrots up and mix it in the pasta and broth with loads of parmesan grated on top. In true Italian fashion, we like to have the chicken as our 'secondi', or second course along with salad or vegetables. Don't waste the delicious tasting carrots and celery used in the broth(this is the reason I peel my carrots) and finish them off in a hot oven to serve with the chicken.  This evening we ate the pastina at 5pm with the kids and then much later ate the chicken, heated in a hot oven along with the vegetables and some roasted butternut squash.  Perfecto!

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12
(based on 80g pasta, 1 large chicken thigh & 1 large drumstick per person)

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