Monday, October 17, 2011

When Tortellini met Brodo...

You'd be surprised by what we didn't do in Italy. We didn't see a lot of churches.

Well... we saw a few. It's required.

Nor did we make it a mission to hit every piece of art.

But sometimes you'd simply walk into a building and look up and Italy surprises you.

We ate a lot of this.

And this - yes - chocolate tortellini. From Bologna - the city of tortellini and tagliatelle. Even their food is musical. And I continued my search for tortellini in brodo. There's something about those little stuffed pastas - years ago I wrote a script - Commedia Delight where the very tall character - Teeny Tortellini was a character. Some things stay with you.

After seeing this, I was begging Paul to rent me a kitchen so I could make my own.

We did a lot of people-watching in the piazzas. Found a medieval art fair, ate a hippo's weight in gelato, consumed every meat and cheese platter that winked at us and investigated side streets.

We walked off most of the calories. Just turning a corner brought smiles. Nothing looked like home. Nor should it.

We tended to eat wherever we found ourselves. Some days had a plan and some days were subject to whimsy.

The bruschetta was so simple but we loved how it was placed in a small puddle of olive oil and fresh pepper - the reverse of how I do it. Messy in the most luxurious way. When I came home to a bounty of cherry tomatoes and the arugula still hanging on, my husband requested this over and over again. And I complied.

This is not the way to take off the Italy weight.

Fresh tagliatelle with a Bolognese sauce. We had a required pasta for every city and town we visited. Some people have sights to see and our sights were food. I think we thought we would slide into the Italian state of mind by walking the streets and tasting all.

Every side street held a promise. Somewhere out there was tortellini in brodo.

I brought home a few of these.

And a lot of these. I am looking for a no-fail torrone recipe if anyone has - mine is always too soft. And we are a torrone-family. Sometimes I think torrone is the glue that binds us. Every time I open one - a conversation starts with "remember..." All too soon, it is "remember?" Gilberto's - where the torrone is from. And where my husband patiently waited while I investigated every centimeter of the store.

And then Taburini's (all in Bologna).

This is a place where you really wish you had rented a kitchen.

I could get even chubbier at Tamborini's.

I remain a soup-fiend and a ricotta addict. And this is where the ricotta spread its magic.

7 Archi - very touristy. But during the course of a long lunch, the restaurant worked it's charms and we could see the torches and the craftsmen of Medieval Bologna. Until this jolted us back to our time -

Simple. Some vanilla gelato perched on a diminutive ricotta tort - laced with chocolate and tiny chocolate bursts. I never ate anything so slowly in my life. But like a good book -when  the last page comes and you finally must read it - the last spoonful was downed. And this delectable was memory.

After the Medieval Fair, we were back in the piazza - waiting for sunset and restaurants to open again. We were in no hurry.

In our last night in Bologna, I was in despair. Obsessed with finding a simple toretellini in brodo, I led Paul down side street after side street reading menus. We had had the ragu, the tagliatelle served every way but I could not find tortellini in brodo.

Until a dark side street showed promise - Vicolo Colombina in Dove Lane - an alleyway just steps from Piazza Maggiore. Part art gallery, part wine bar and part ristorante - with a small but succinct menu that showcases the food of Emilia-Romagna.

It boasted of the best meat platter in Bologna.

These were no hastily cured meats. Delicate, a touch of salt, a classic - gracefully aged meats to be savored. This restaurant did not idly boast.

And then - yes it is simple - yes - it is peasant - but there it was - my tortellini in brodo. I fell in love with this at a dive restaurant in Rome years ago and have flirted with it, longed for it and have become staunchly devoted to it ever since.

By the time I was finished, I was attached to the restaurant. I wanted to move in and write plays all centering on tortellini.

And I so trusted them that when it came time for dessert, I asked the owner to surprise me.

And his choice did surprise me.

Panna cotta - silky, smooth cooked cream surrounded by caramel - so simple. The way a simple gold bangle resting on your wrist is - the way one milky white rose can greet you and so fitting for a place that specializes in not only local fare but art.

I asked to take some photos. Inside the gallery was featuring the work of Carlo Ferrari. His studies of flowers - particularly of roses  caress the senses. Heavily influenced by the Flemish paintings of the 17th century, Ferrari offers a sweet nod to the past while making it his own.

The owner disappeared while I tried to do justice to the exquisite rooms with my simple point and shoot. And returned with a booklet for me to take home - containing photos of all of Ferrari's 'study of roses' paintings.
Truly I am in the land of generosity of spirit.

And now, I slowly move through the pages of Ferrari's glorious roses - now - as I write this -  remembering. In front of me is a hastily prepared tortellini in brodo. Good for what ails you - when you are remembering.

Tortellini in Brodo
(This is a broth that takes canned chicken broth and enriches it. While I am a a lover of and cooker of fresh chicken broth , you may recall that I can also be a great, lazy-bones and if making broth is not in the cards, I will do this - from the wonderful Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Splendid Table. Her long-simmered poultry stock is truly a winner - but after this long post - I thought I would leave you with something simple.)

1 medium onion
58 ounces low-sodium chicken broth (preferably organic)
1 large celery stalk with leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 large carrot - coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, unpeeled (trim root ends) coarsely chopped
2 sprigs Italian parsley
1 large garlic clove crushed
generous pinch of dried basil

Preheat broiler. Trim root end from first onion but do not peel. Cut it into 4 thick slices. Arrange them on broiling pan (aluminum foil if you wish) and slip under broiler - broiling for 15 minutes until browned on both sides - turning once.

Pour broth into large stockpot and skim off the hardened fat (easily done if the broth has been chilled). Add broiled onion and all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat so the broth just simmers, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat and strain. Use broth immediately or refrigerate or freeze.

The tortellini - given that my ravioli skills are in preschool - I will admit it - I buy the tortellini - the fresh stuff. Maybe this is the winter when my patience will increase and true Bolognese tortellini will come from my kitchen. I did note that the tortellini in Bologna is much tinier and more delicate than the American counterparts.

France is said to be the land of cuisine while Italy is the land of ingredients but I don't know - for what is cuisine without the ingredients?


Ashley@Bakerbynature said...

This post has me positively swooning! I'm dying to get back to Italy. Looks like you guys definitely enjoyed your trip :)

Cucina49 said...

Gorgeous photos! Your trip to Italy sounds like mine, except we saw lots of art and churches (my husband is an art buff).

Claudia said...

I'm smiling - I think I saw every church in my first trip to Italy! And the second trip was art. It was time for food!

Torviewtoronto said...

lovely post and pictures looks like lots of fun

Mary Bergfeld said...

It sounds like a wonderful holiday. Your photos are terrific. They are almost as good as being there. I hope all is well. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

I am in awe of these awesome photos they just draw me into the settings... lovely. I am amazed how they put you there, such a treat.. the recipe is something I have to make, we would all love it! Both boys love tortellini, these pictures are fabulous CLaudia bravo to you !

chow and chatter said...

love this post :-) hungry now though

Midlife Roadtripper said...

So enjoyed this visit. Perfect travelogue. I'm hungry -- for soup.

Italy is such a lovely place to visit. I hope to return someday.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

There is so much to see and do in Italy but it is always their superb food that lingers the longest in a visitor's memory.

I could almost taste every word in your delicious post, Claudia!

Beth said...

What an amazing journey you had! I always think the food of a nation tells us much about it, and the food of Italy is just wonderful. I've been on missions like that, and there's no joy like finding exactly what you were looking for! I'm so glad that it lived up to your expectations.

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

I love tortellini in brodo, especially now that the weather is getting a little cold. Nice pictures, it looks like you had a great time around here!

Mister Meatball said...

There are churches in Italy?

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

Oh, your post makes me want to hop and jet and get to Italy ASAP! For gelato and tortellini in brodo... But I think I'll have to make do with your delicious homemade version :) Thank you!!!

Sprigs of Rosemary said...

I read every single word of your long post. Going to Italy is on my bucket list and the way you did it sounds absolutely perfect! If I ever do get to go, I'm coming to you for pointers!

Catherine said...

Dear Claudia, What beautiful memories. I am so happy for you. Thank you for sharing them. Blessings for a beautiful day. Catherine xo

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Claudia - It looks like you had a grand time doing wonderful things, seeing wonderful things, eating wondering things. Tamburini is a treasure. Those chocolate tortellini look adorable. Hope you brought some home. The torrone assortment is fabulous. I am always on the lookout for the hard torrone too. Most places in Princeton sell the soft stuff, but I can find the hard stuff closer to Christmas - and always in NYC. Never found a recipe for it, but if you do, you must post it.

tinyskillet said...

Now this is my kind of sightseeing! Beautiful photos in this lovely post!

That Girl said...

I've been dying to visit Italy forever. This puts that desire over the edge.

Anne said...

I visited Italy in my college days to learn all about Art History. I did! I would have liked to be right there with you again walking, touring, and eating. Thanks for sharing beautiful Italy.

Reeni said...

I'm gazing at your pictures and reading your words with lusty longing. Someday I will brave the long flight over the ocean (which scares me to death) for an extended vacation...god willing. Until then I will live through you.

Mary Bergfeld said...

You always have such nice things to say. I had to jump back in to thank you. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Sylvia said...

Beautiful pics and delicious food. I love tortellini in brodo . Is a wonderful dish for winter

FOODESSA said...

Ahh Claudia...where to begin? Well, beyond the obsession with your tortellini soup...I quite enjoyed the tale of how you slowly nursed that Ricotta tort and ice cream treat...I would have been in the same state of mind ;o)

Traveling in the last few years have certainly been more interesting because of food and of course the architectural surrounding does place charm in our memories as well. Museums, churches and gardens are always appreciated...however, great food is what we remember most.

Have a great week,

Island Vittles said...

Thank you for sharing more pics from your trip! The food looks amazing, but what I long for the most is to just wander down old streets and feel their age and history -- there's nothing truly that old over here on the west coast...Theresa

Barbara said...

I am enjoying my armchair traveling through your enticing photos, Claudia. I love how you said "torrone is the glue that binds us." I remember the little individual packages of torrone that had Italian ladies in festive costumes on them, which I would cut out and use as paper dolls. Torrone is a memory magnet!

Wanda..... said...

You could write a play about your adventures...your post brings to mind "Eat Pray Love"...loved your enjoyment of everything!

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

OMG! This is too much for me !! Can I go with you next time..Thos trotellini in brodo plus the panacotta !!! Who needs more?

My Little Space said...

What a fabulous post, Claudia. And thanks for taking us along the trip. The food looks fantastic too.
Hope you're enjoying your day.
Blessings, Kristy

Vibey said...

Magic - just magic.

Re: the tortellini. I subscribed to La Cucina Italiana for years and remember reading an article on the tiny tortellini specially made for broth. Inspired, I made them for my mother's 70th birthday and nearly went insane doing it, but everyone was sighing as they ate their broth. Worth it.

Emily Malloy said...


Sandra said...

Ohh dear..what a beautiful post full of delicious dishes and desserts..Yummy! Looks like you had so much fun..who wouldn't :)) it is Italy:)

tasteofbeirut said...

I remember my first trip to Italy I was shown Milan on a bicycle with a friend and she proceeded to take me to every single church (or so it seemed); that was decades ago and I am afraid the only thing I remember from Italy was the food: What we ate, and where we ate it!
Love the dessert, I bet I 'd like it better than the French crème caramel

Mari Nuñez said...

What a beautiful country to visit. Yo are so lucky Claudia :) Great places and food, I will also eat lots of gelato and chocolate tortellinis if I was there.


Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

Gorgeous pictures and the "simple vanilla gelato on a diminutive ricotta tort" - be still my heart! the meat platter with all the delicious pancetta...absolute food porn Claudia!

Devaki said...

Your blog is such an inpiration! I heart your recipes and am so grateful I found you :)

ciao ciao

Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Your vacation sounds fabulous Claudia. I could have existed on bruschetta alone. Walking and walking does take the calories away, thank goodness.

We often tell a waiter or owner to surprise us and it's always something delightful and mostly something I would not have ordered on my own.

Your tortellini looks fabulous and a lovely way to end this delicious post.

Jeannie said...

I would love to explore every crook and crony of Italy like you did and eat all the delicious food that you ate! Your tortellini certainly sounds good!

Quay Po Cooks said...

We went to Italy 11 yrs ago. You photos make me want to go there again. Fabulous photos.


Thank you for taking me with you on this trip. It makes me want to visit Italy or Europe in general soon!
Happy weekend,

Monet said...

My dear friend...what a joy it was to follow you on this trip! From the sights to the food, I was enthralled. I'm so glad I'm able to type again. I've missed visiting and commenting on your blog. I hope you are doing well and enjoying a restful Sunday. Hugs from Austin, my friend!

Gina said...

My dear everything bit of this was absolutely divine. I only wish I could hop on a plane tomorrow and wander around. Hopefully in a year or two. So glad you enjoyed every bite.

Juliana said...

Nice pictures Claudia, I enjoy "traveling" with you. Your post brought me many nice memories from my trip to Italy, years and years ago.
Hope you have a great week and again thanks you for sharing such a nice pictures :-)

Angie's Recipes said...

You for sure had some quality time in Italy!
I want to make some tortellini for lunch!

Kim said...

Thank you for taking us along with you through your post. So many wonderful pictures and descriptions, makes me feel as if I were there too. It sounds like you and your husband had a very memorable trip, full of all kinds of wonders for the senses. I'm so happy that you were able to find the tortellini in brodo.

oysterCulture said...

What an amazing trip - you traveled in style and what a sampling of some amazing foods. Thank you for sharing and inspiring. Bologna is definitely top of my list.

the tortellini en brodo is wonderful in its simplicity and just like a good bowl of Chinese wonton soup - simple is grand!