In SELF’s franchise, The Meal I Eat When I’m Feeling…, we talk with chefs, celebs, athletes, and people in the culinary space about the specific foods or meals they turn to amid certain emotions—and how eating their favorites plays a vital role in their self-care.
When the weather starts to cool down in London, actor and cookbook author Stanley Tucci inevitably starts to crave the warm, aromatic dishes he enjoyed as a kid in New York. And now, as a dad to a five- and eight-year-old, he’s recreating those same comforting meals and moments with his own family.
That’s why he often turns to Brodo di Gallina con Polpettine di Pollo—or chicken noodle soup with meatballs—to warm up his household on chilly days. When he was a kid, his mom, aunt, and grandmother all stewed versions of the fragrant, brothy meal, serving it up for regular weeknight dinners or even as Thanksgiving appetizers, Tucci tells SELF. Now, it’s his turn to continue the tradition. “Although I never make it as good as they did,” Tucci admits.
The soup of his childhood was anchored by pastina, the tiny star-shaped pasta bites that often show up in Italian-American comfort dishes. He’s always savored his memories of digging into the small stars submerged in steamy chicken broth, so he was disappointed to learn that Ronzoni—a popular pasta brand—discontinued the beloved product across the US earlier this year (which sent social media into a frenzy). So, as an ode to his family’s favorite comfort food, Tucci partnered with S. Pellegrino to revive the cultural staple: In 2023, he developed a meal kit that features the pasta shape so others can continue to enjoy the nostalgic eats of his youth.
Tucci traditionally leans into his heritage in his work, so it’s no surprise he took the initiative to preserve the pastina. For example, he hosts the travel docuseries Searching for Italy, which spotlights Italian dishes with deep cultural, political, and environmental stories behind them. The episodes cover topics ranging from sustainably growing grapes in Sicily to refugee restaurateurs working to establish their version of home in Venice.
Tucci’s soup is easy, nostalgic, and comforting, but there’s another big reason he continues to ladle it out: It “fills you up,” he says, thanks to the protein from the chicken meatballs and the fiber from the vegetables. Tucci spoke with SELF to share his recipe for his cozy and nutrient-rich Brodo di Gallina con Polpettine di Pollo—plus some tips on how to make it one of your new favorite recipes to cook, too.
1. Pull out your Instant Pot.
To save yourself some time and energy, toss all the ingredients into an Instant Pot, Tucci says. This will speed up the cooking process, so you can prep a big batch in the morning and then reheat it later once you’re ready to eat. It’s a great hack to avoid having to start dinner when you get home from work, he adds.
2. Don’t forget the toppings and sides.
Instead of simply ladling your soup into a bowl and digging in, try elevating it with the help of some special toppings or sides, Tucci explains. “It’s a very sort of Italian thing where you grate cheese onto a soup, particularly chicken soup; it gives it a beautiful flavor,” he says. Try a sharp option like Parmesan or Romano for salty and nutty notes.