Acquacotta


Acquacotta, the famous Tuscan soup, originated in the region of Maremma, in southwestern Tuscany. You will often find it in cookbooks under “Acquacotta alla Maremmana”, specifying its origins.

Its history goes back several hundred years, before Italy was even a country, and it is a staple of “la cucina povera”, peasant food. L’acquacotta, or, in English, “cooked water soup”, was invented as a way to use vegetables that were no longer fresh enough to be served on their own, and, most of all, as a way to make stale bread edible. The bread is usually served at the bottom of the bowl and the soup served on top, making the bread moist. Since I have picky eaters around me who do not like wet bread, I serve it in the form of a crostini, topped with melted cheese and it is used as a crouton instead.

Vegetables in this soup vary according to the season and to your taste. I have made several versions of acquacotta and this is just the first one. You should expect variations in the next few months. In the tradition of la cucina povera, l’acquacotta is almost always vegetarian because meat was too expensive in earlier days.

The beauty of this soup lies in the marriage of its different components, with the runny egg yolk flavouring the broth and giving it a velvety texture.

I like using different cheeses with this soup, and I find Pecorino Toscano, a young, softer Pecorino cheese, particularly attractive here. You will find it at a good Italian deli, in Ottawa, at Luciano Foods, on Preston street.

There is a legend around acquacotta, and it certainly is a good read.

Crostini

Acquacotta

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 small red onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 plum tomatoes, finely diced, peeled if you have time
1 bay leaf
1 bunch dinosaur kale, tough stems removed and chopped
1 1/2 L (6 cups) water
kosher salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
6 slices country-style bread
Pecorino Toscano cheese, grated
extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Method:

1. In a dutch oven over medium-low heat, cook the onion, the celery and the carrot in the oil, stirring frequently until the onion starts to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

2. Add the tomatoes and the bay leaf and a good pinch of salt. When everything in the pot starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking, uncovered, stirring once in a while, until the tomatoes have turned to purée, about 15 minutes.

3. Add the water and the kale, and one teaspoon of kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a moderate simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and correct seasonings. It will need more salt and some pepper.

You can cook the soup up this point in advance.

4. When ready to serve, turn the broiler on to max. Put the bread slices on a sheet pan and put under the broiler for one to two minutes, then turn them over and cook for the same time. Watch them carefully so they do not burn.

5. Cover each bread slice with the grated cheese and return under the broiler for another minute or so, just enough to melt the cheese.

6. Bring the soup back a slow boil, (you don’t want it to boil too much), and crack the eggs in the pot. Cook for three to four minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still quite runny.

7. Serve immediately in warm bowls, transferring one egg per person. Serve the crostini on the side and drizzle lots of olive oil over the soup just before serving. Serve the cheese on the side.

Acquacotta

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