Last week when I was sidelined by a bad head cold (low-grade fever, sore throat, massive headaches ~ you know what I mean) this soup saw me through. Composed of just four ingredients ~ broth, egg, spinach, cheese ~ stracciatella is one of the most comforting and nourishing dishes in all of Italian cooking.
It’s a well-known soup, the Italian equivalent of Chinese egg drop or egg flower soup, named for the ragged stands (“stracce”) that form when egg is added to simmering broth. Why bother post a recipe of an already popular soup? A couple of reasons:
- It’s spring (give or take a few days), and both eggs and tender greens are culinary harbingers (and symbols) of the season. Another harbinger? Head colds.
- This version is a little different, and it’s better. The eggs are less like rags and more like soft clouds.
Start with good ingredients (fresh eggs, homemade broth) and follow the technique and you’ll soon be enjoying a lovely bowl of hot soup with soft clouds of egg and spinach. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Don’t skimp on the egg. I’ve seen recipes that call for just one egg for four cups of broth. This makes for a wan soup with shreds of egg that float forlornly around the bowl.
- Beat the cheese into the eggs before adding to the soup. The cheese helps bind the egg and spinach into soft clumps.
- To further enrich or thicken the soup, stir a tablespoon of semolina into the eggs along with the cheese. (This is optional, and I don’t always do it.)
- Avoid over-stirring the eggs as you add them to the broth. Vigorous stirring will make the broth cloudy and create stringy strands. Leave it be and the eggs and spinach will form fluffy clouds as the soup simmers.
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- ABRUZZO COOKING CLASS AT HILL CENTER DC, Wednesday, April 6: Come learn how to make spaghetti alla chitarra and other Abruzzese specialties. Details on my events page.
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My latest book, PRESERVING ITALY: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions, is available for pre-order.
Read my latest story in The Washington Post’s Food section, about three of my favorite regional pasta shapes and how to make them at home.
Thinking about where to go in 2016? Why not explore delicious Italy off the beaten path with me and my partners at Abruzzo Presto in September? Join us for a week-long tour exploring the food, culture, and landscape of this spectacular region. You can find the details on my tours page and please feel free to forward the link to friends and family with the travel bug.
One of the simplest and most nourishing soups, stracciatella is classic Italian comfort food. The word "stracciatella" refers to the rag-like strands of egg cooked in hot broth. To keep the egg fluffy, avoid overstirring while they cook. Use homemade broth if you have it, farm-fresh eggs, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 2 handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves or 1 cup frozen spinach (no need to defrost; see NOTE)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the spinach. Cover partially and cook at a gentle simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring once or twice.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the cheese. Whisk with a fork until well combined. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the soup, stirring slowly once or twice with the fork. Simmer, uncovered, for a couple of minutes without stirring, until the eggs are fluffy and set. Gently break up the eggs into soft clumps.
Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle a little Parmigiano on top.
If using frozen spinach, look for "quick-frozen" spinach in bags, rather than blocks of spinach in boxes. This makes it easy to measure out as much as you need and return the rest to the freezer.