omfort food encompasses more than just traditional American favorites like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. The basic tenets of comfort food have been embraced by cuisines from around the world, including Italy, France, Morocco, and Japan. The only requirements are that the flavors are familiar and the food fills you up like a hug from mom.
The following categories contain a few tempting examples of the global comfort-food phenomenon.
- United States: Homemade macaroni and cheese tops the list, especially when the sauce is made with a mix of fine cheeses, such as extra sharp Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyere, and Asiago. A buttered breadcrumb topping and chopped prosciutto stirred into the cheese sauce will kick this comfort food classic over the top.
- Switzerland: It doesn’t get much cheesier than cheese fondue or raclette. While fondue consists of cheese melted with various seasonings and white wine to form a dippable (though thick) sauce, raclette, distills cheese eating to its essence. Prepared by heating a half wheel or wedge of Raclette cheese under a heating element until it melts, the cheese is then scraped with a special knife onto a plate and served with roasted new potatoes and pickled vegetables. Occasionally, raclette is also served with thin slices of ham or lean, aired-dried beef.
- Italy: Pizza has become almost as American as apple pie, but this popular bread-and-cheese treat has its roots in southern Italy - Naples to be exact. Prepared with a thin, wood oven-charred crust, Italian-style pizza puts the spotlight on fresh mozzarella cheese and a thin swath of fresh tomato sauce.
- Morocco: Made in a clay pot and chock-full of meltingly tender lamb or beef, potatoes, spices, and often fruit and olives, tagine is the epitome of comfort food from the African continent.
- France: France is responsible for a long list of tender meat dishes, including pot au feu (braised beef stew), confit or preserved duck, coq au vin (chicken stewed with wine and vegetables, and cassoulet, a white bean-based dish studded with chunks of sausage and preserved duck legs.
- United States: Beef pot roast, barbecue pork ribs, and golden roast chicken all aptly fit this category. Served with mashed or roasted potatoes, these dishes hit a comfort high point.
- Italy: Starring slowly braised veal shank, Osso buco is cooked with olive oil, white wine, stock, onions, tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, carrots, celery and lemon peel. Upping the comfort food appeal, osso buco is often served with creamy risotto.
- Japan: Though the noodle originated in China, we have Japan to thank for some particularly choice noodle soups: ramen and udon. A far cry from the packaged precooked noodle and seasoning packets we find in grocery stores, real ramen noodles are made fresh at the moment of service and are hand-pulled to a glorious state of elasticity. Udon features thicker ropes of noodles that are often made from buckwheat flour (soba). Both soups are traditionally served in fragrant soy- or pork-based broths and served with vegetable and meat garnishes.
- Italy: When it comes to pasta, the Italian cuisine can satisfy almost any craving. Whether you choose an oven-baked version, such as lasagna or stuffed manicotti, or a sauced pasta in strands or shapes, the ingredient options are limitless. Always remember that the Italians prize high-quality ingredients prepared simply, so stick to pasture-raised meats, free-range chicken, and seasonally available vegetables. These ingredients will be more flavorful and require less effort to make the pasta dish taste truly exceptional.
- Germany: Rustic German cuisine is the birthplace of spätzle, also spaetzle, a flour-based pasta created by scraping dough over a colander or slotted spoon. Spätzle is usually served tossed with butter and garnished with chopped chives or parsley, a comforting accompaniment to most meat dishes, including classic wiener schnitzel (breaded and fried thin-pounded veal and sauerbraten (pickled beef pot roast).