Long nights, frigid days call for comfort of pasta


January 27, 1993|By Rita Calvert | Rita Calvert,Contributing Writer

In the depths of winter, when the days are cold and dreary, yearnings often turn to comfort food, especially Italian pasta dishes. This homey recipe developed by a Roman grandmother originally contained more cholesterol than you would want to know; our "nanas" were bent on soothing with creamy foods long before cholesterol became an issue.

In our version, chicken broth replaces extra cream and cornstarch is the thickener rather than eggs and Parmesan. Tortellini, a stuffed pasta often described as "little hats," is the basis of many stories. The pasta shape is said to be a facsimile of Venus' own belly button. The refrigerated types are excellent and can't be beat for easy preparation.

Serve a salad of fresh plum tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach tossed with your favorite vinaigrette or tangy salad dressing. End the meal with refreshing frozen yogurt in a fruit flavor topped with bananas, grapes, kiwi and any other seasonal favorites.

Items you should have in your pantry are: chicken broth, cornstarch, fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese (preferably fresh), fresh tomatoes, salad dressing, seasonal fruits.

4( Your 10-items-or-less shopping list:

2 (9-ounce) packages tortellini -- or the larger version, tortelloni -- with filling of choice

8 ounces heavy cream

1 cup frozen peas

4-6 ounces smoked ham or Canadian bacon (or 1 cup leftover ham)

fresh spinach (about 6 cups)

8 ounces mushrooms

# frozen fruit yogurt

Tortellini Della Nonna Serves 4

9-ounce packages refrigerated tortellini (or tortelloni) with filling of choice

2 cups chicken broth

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 cup diced leftover ham or 4-6 ounces diced smoked ham or Canadian bacon

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare sauce on top of the stove or in the microwave. Combine broth, garlic and cornstarch and stir until cornstarch has dissolved. Add cream and heat, stirring often, until thickened. Add 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and the ham. Heat until ham is warm and cheese has melted. Add peas.

Drain tortellini and toss with sauce. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan.

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