I’m starting to like this headcold. On Friday, it delivered unto me the ultimate sickday: a pyjama-clad master class in brodo-making with my mother.

Brodo is simply broth, and the Italian version I grew up with calls for chicken, plus four or five basic ingredients that are always sitting neglected in my produce drawer. You sip it when you’re sick. In it floats little pastine – tiny noodles shaped like stars or tubes or o’s – and you sprinkle parmiggiano on top. It is clear, clean, basic, and miraculous in its ability to comfort a sicko without giant slabs of butter or cream or melty cheddar.

On the day in question, I had a low-grade fever and a very high-key baby on the mend, so I called my mum for consolation and she offered to come by and pinch hit. When she landed, she remembered me saying that there was chicken in the fridge and asked if I wanted help putting some brodo on. Score! I blew my schnoz, put the baby down for a nap, grabbed my camera and headed for the kitchen.

This is how we did it:

Chicken parts (Norm says the back and neck are good because you won’t be left with more chicken than you can eat, and they’re flavourful and inexpensive. I used one package of thighs and one package of breasts, skin on, bone in, for flavour)

One whole onion, peeled

Three carrots, peeled and chopped into 2- or 3-inch pieces

A stalk or two of celery, with leaves, chopped in 2- or 3-inch pieces

A potato, if you have one (I didn’t)


Salt and pepper

Pastine (tiny little pasta noodles, any shape that catches your eye)

Parmiggiano for serving

1. Prep your chicken: Wash it, pat it dry and trim off excess fat. (Just be sure to leave enough on to make the soup flavourful.)

2. Place chicken in a large pot and cover it with water by more than an inch or so. (The water will make up your broth, so you want enough of it to make the whole project worthwhile, but no so much that you dilute the flavours of your ingredients.)

3. Bring your water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. When foam

accumulates on the surface of the water, skim it off with a slotted spoon. (Transfer to a bowl or measuring cup, then discard. It can go right down the drain, says Norm.)

4. Drop your veggies into the pot.

At this point, you can add salt and pepper. Or, if you’re sharing this with a baby who doesn’t rock the salt and pepper yet, hold off till the very end, till you’ve removed the bambino’s portions.

5. Remove the carrots from the pot once they’re cooked to a satisfying doneness. (If you leave them in the pot the whole time the chicken brothifies, you’re carrots will get too mushy to eat.)

6. Boil your pastine so it’s ready when the brodo is. (I used acini di pepe, which look like – and are named after – little pepperballs.)

6. Turn off the heat once the chicken is cooked and falling away from the bone. It takes about an hour and a half.

7. Strain the soup into a clean pot or bowl (if you have one big enough), as there will be little bits of bone and celery mush that are too hard to fish out with the slotted spoon. I borrowed a handsome strainer from Sarah H., who was sweet enough to walk it over from across the street, and used it straight-up, but Norm lines hers with cheesecloth.

8. Add salt and pepper now, if you held off earlier on for the baby’s sake.

9. Two options with your carrots: slice them up and toss them back into the bowls of broth you’re about to eat. Or serve them separately as a side vegetable, with olive oil, salt and pepper.

10. Transfer your brodo to various containers, one for the fridge for today or tomorrow, some for the freezer, some little ones for the peanut.

And that’s it, Ronny Cammareri. You got brodo.

Serve it with a few scoops of pastine in your bowl and parmiggiano sprinkled on top. Alongside, you can have (says Norm) a boiled dinner, with the chicken meat and the boiled carrots. Parsley optional. Pickle optional. (I can’t imagine my parents eating this with pickle. But that’s what she said.)

Or make a chicken-salad sandwich, like I did.

The English have tea; we have brodo – the ultimate Italian naturopathic remedy for whatever may vex you. (Though no one said a shot of grappa and a 2-22 ever hurt.) Still, nothing ever quite replaces sleep, dear paesani. I’m off to bed.