Are you interested in learning more about Italian regional cuisine with a hands-on cooking lesson? Email us!
It’s been a busy day, your colleagues at work wear you out. You don’t really want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking dinner. Plus it’s cold, maybe it’s raining outside, and you’d like to eat something warm, comforting curled up with a blanket and something fantastic on TV. Here are 10 recipes for quick comfort food dishes. They are soups, pastas, creams and broths, all easily prepared in less than half an hour. Of course all these recipes are based on seasonal ingredients: from pumpkin to leafy greens to chestnuts. And there’s something for every palate and dietary choice, vegetarian and not.
The trick to these quick solutions is always having chicken, bone or vegetable broth at hand. I make large batches and freeze them. Another helpful time-cutting tool is using a pressure cooker, or an Instant Pot.
Passatelli in Brodo – Mix together equal parts breadcrumbs and grated Parmigiano and one egg per person into a thick golden dough. Then press it through a ricer and let the obtained noodles simmer in chicken broth while you light candles around the house. Have a good bottle of red wine in close proximity.
Meatball and Lettuce Soup – Season ground meat with half a teaspoon of curry and a pinch of salt, then form walnut-sized meatballs and toss them in boiling bone broth together with angel hair noodles. When the broth boils, add shredded lettuce and adjust seasoning and a thread of olive oil. Let the soup rest for a few minutes before ladling it hot in deep bowls.
Vellutata with scallops and turmeric – Vellutata is a type of thickened, velvety soup that’s normally made with a vegetable base and a starch, and which can be seasoned and added with all manner of ingredients. This wholly gluten-free vellutata is one of my sister’s war horses. Bring a quart of vegetable broth to a boil, sift in almond flour, stirring with a wire whisk to avoid lumps forming. When the liquid resumes boiling cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Sauté fresh scallops for about 2 minutes in a greased non-stick pan. Season in moderation and add the scallops to the cream, dusted with powdered turmeric.
Risotto with Pumpkin – When I need to wind down after a stressful day, I always make risotto. The slow stirring and consecutive ladles of hot broth fogging up my glasses soothe me. Click here for a fantastic seasonal pumpkin risotto recipe shared by Alice Adams.
Pasta e patate with smoked provola cheese – Neapolitans sure know their comfort food. This pasta recipe is considered a soup, but it’s never made as a liquid, brothy, soupy soup. Pasta e patate is a thick, hearty and delicious dish made with humble ingredients that are packed with filling and flavorsome carbs. And smoked mozzarella. Click here for my pasta e patate recipe.
Cream of artichokes with goat cheese – Mince a shallot and sweat it in a pressure cooker/instant pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the artichoke bottoms and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Cover with a quart of of boiling hot broth. Seal the pot and cook for 8 minuted from the whistle. Meanwhile, mix some soft goat cheese with 2 tbsp. of chopped fresh thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. Once cooked, release the steam valve, open the pressure cooker and using an immersion blender, obtain a cream with the artichokes and their cooking liquid. Garnish with dollops of the prepared goat cheese and thyme mix.
Pancotto – Pancotto is a typical recipe of Basilicata and Puglia, especially in the province of Foggia.This is a typical example of cucina povera, which generally also served as a complete meal. Using stale bread and whatevere vegetables are in season, this is a startlingly economic and humbly delicious soup. Toss cubes of bread into a broth of diced potatoes, tomatoes and greens such as Swissh chard, turnip tops, or broccoli raab.
Farro soup with pumpkin and speck – Chop the pumpkin pulp into cubes. Mince celery, carrot and onion into mirepoix. Sweat some chopped speck in a pressure cooker with a knob of butter; after a couple of minutes add the chopped vegetables and the pumpkin and brown them with a sprig of thyme for 1 minute. Pour in the farro and cook with a glass of white wine. Once evaporated, add vegetable broth to cover. Seal the lid and cook the soup for 20 minuted from the whistle. Once cooked, release the steam valve, open the pressure cooker, stir and serve immediately.
Chestnut soup – Mince half an onion, a carrot, a handful of parsley leaves and a slice of pancetta. Simmer in a pressure cooker with a tablespoon of butter. Add 1 cup of rice and a splash of dry white wine. Add a dozen carefully peeled, husked and halved chestnuts. Cover with a quart of boiling vegetable broth. Cook for 8 minutes from the whistle. Release the steam vent, open the pressure cooker and bring to the table immediately.
Cream of leek with pine nuts and sultanas – Cut both the white and the green part of the leek stalk into thin strips. Finely chop a slice of pancetta, browing it with half the butter. Add the leeks and cook for a few minutes, then add a splash of dry white wine. Let it evaporate, then add a handful of raisins and pine nuts. Pour in a quart of vegetable broth, let it boil for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, cube some white bread and brown in a pan with some butter or olive oil. Garnish the soup with the croutons and serve piping hot.
What’s your go-to comfort dish when the temperature drops?
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.