Acquacotta, a soup, which as its name betrays is made of a few simple ingredients, has always intrigued me precisely because of this characteristic.
This soup originated specifically in the Maremma, a notoriously poor area of the region, and was the typical dish of the butteri, the shepherds who followed the herds.
This is why the soup originally had very few ingredients: in fact, it was prepared only with water, bread and onions, so as not to weigh down the nomadic shepherds’ load.
The version that is prepared nowadays, and which used to be prepared only on feast days, also includes tomatoes, celery and one egg per person, cooked directly in the soup.
- 1 medium onion
- 1 1/2 stalks of celery
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 cup of peeled tomatoes
- chili pepper (optional)
- 2 slices of bread
- 2 eggs
- grated pecorino cheese
- extra virgin olive oil
- pepper (optional)
- 4 cups of water
Preparing acquacotta is time-consuming, but making it is as simple as it gets; while the soup is cooking you can safely do other things without risking burning.
Start by removing the tough filaments from the celery stalks and then wash and dice them.
Peel the onion and dice it too. Drain and mash the peeled tomatoes with the tines of a fork.
In a saucepan, preferably cast iron or ceramic, pour two generous tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Perhaps opt for a fragrant Tuscan oil since you are preparing a recipe typical of that area.
Peel the garlic and crush it slightly, then place it in the oil and let it brown.
At this point add the onion, celery, peeled tomatoes, chili (if you put it in) and salt.
Let it cook for a few minutes to let everything take on flavor, then pour in the water, lower the stove flame almost to the minimum, and close the saucepan with the lid.
Forget (so to speak) about the soup and continue cooking for about 2h and 30 minutes. These are the traditional timings, but nothing prevents you from increasing the flame or reducing the water a little and cooking for a little less time. It goes without saying that slow cooking would be the optimum, a bit like Bolognese sauce, but I understand that nowadays you often don’t have that much time.
However, take a look from time to time to see how it is progressing and adjust. The water should mostly evaporate, but not completely.
While the acquacotta is cooking, cut four slices of bread and toast them in an oven or frying pan over low heat.
Once toasted, rub them with fresh garlic, then break them up roughly and lay them on two soup plates.
COOKING THE EGG IN THE ACQUACOTTA
When the acquacotta is almost ready, take the eggs. Shell them directly into the soup being careful not to break the yolk.
Close with the cap and as soon as the egg white has turned white and set, remove the egg from the surface of the acquacotta with a slotted spoon and lay it on a plate. Be careful not to overcook the egg so as to keep the yolk as soft as a soft-boiled or poached egg. If the casserole you used has a large enough diameter you can cook the two eggs at the same time, otherwise cook one egg at a time.
When the eggs are also ready, pour the acquacotta into the two dishes over the toasted bread, then place the egg on top. Sprinkle generously with pecorino cheese and, if desired, a pinch of pepper over the egg.
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