Healthy Comfort Foods

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Risotto and tomato sauce along with Italian sausage make a great comfort food.

Washington, D.C. – As the winter season knocks on doors across the country, many people will be yearning for some cold-weather comfort foods. And why not? After all, they can be warming, bring back memories, and make you feel good all over. This year, add a couple of new options to the list of things to try. You might be pleasantly surprised at how good they make you feel and how well they fill you up.

“Macaroni and cheese is not the only comfort food out there, although it’s often the first one people think of,” says Enzo Febbraro, co-owner and executive chef of the Washington, D.C.-based D’Acqua Ristorante. “There are some other really good-tasting options that will be equally warming but will add some variety and pizzazz.”

To warm things up, try some slow-cooker recipes that will have dinner ready as you walk in the door from being out in the cold. Hearty fall soups are a great slow-cooker option. Just add some bread, and it’s a quick, easy and satisfying meal. Other popular options include stuffed cabbage, lasagna and spaghetti. To try something a little different, try making some potato gnocchi or a homemade pizza. Another good option is risotto, which is a rich and creamy Italian rice dish.

“These dishes not only bring comfort, they taste wonderful,” Febbraro says. “Plus, they are fun to make. They can also be made healthier by paying a bit closer attention to the ingredients when preparing each dish.”

To make comfort-food dishes healthier, the American Dietetic Association recommends:

1. Increasing the amount of vegetables in dishes like soups, stews, pasta, casseroles and homemade pizza.
2. Adding dry beans to dishes to bulk them up and increase nutritional benefits.
3. Trimming the fat off any meat before cooking, and leaving off the skin from the chicken.
4. Draining the grease from browned meat before adding it to dishes.

Comfort foods go hand-in-hand with winter weather, and many people tend to gain weight during the winter months. Taking small steps to make comfort foods healthier is one way to help combat this potential problem. Try this comfort food recipe for a hearty, wholesome meal to remember:

Italian Sausages Risotto

1 small white onion, minced

1/4 cup unsalted butter, divided

1 1/2 cups risotto rice, for example Arborio or Vialone Nano

1/2 cup dry red wine, warmed

1 quart simmering beef broth

1/3 pound fresh sweet Italian sausages, peeled and crumbled

5 tablespoons tomato sauce

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano

Salt to taste

Peel and mince onion. Saute with all but 1 tablespoon butter in casserole; brown onion lightly. Next, sauté rice in pot, stirring briskly, for 5-7 minutes, then add wine. Once wine has evaporated begin adding broth a ladle at a time. When rice is about half done, stir in minced sausage and tomato sause. Continue stirring in broth until rice reaches al dente stage, then stir in remaining butter and cheese. Turn off flame and let risotto sit covered for couple of minutes, then serve. Yields 4-6 servings.

D’Acqua Ristorante, owned by Chefs Enzo Febbraro and Francesco Ricchi, is located at 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C. The restaurant, which features a coastal Italian menu with a seafood emphasis, was opened by the two highly acclaimed chefs in 2006 and has quickly earned great reviews. Enzo, a native of Naples, Italy, has traveled throughout Europe, preparing dishes at high-end restaurants and hotels. Francesco, a Florentine native, has worked for a number of award-winning establishments, and has also hosted President George W. Bush. The restaurant is a popular political dining establishment frequented by the Washington elite, including senators, members of congress, and White House staff. To learn more about D’Acqua Ristorante, visit the website.

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