My Goals

  • Rich, full-bodied broth

  • Hearty, satisfying meal

  • Fresh, vibrant flavor

  • Appealing assortment of textures

Don’t let the name acquacotta, meaning “cooked water” in Italian, deceive you. In this Tuscan soup, a cousin of the better-known minestrone and ribbolita, water, vegetables, beans, and herbs are transformed into a rustic meal when whole eggs or yolks are whisked into the broth before it’s ladled over stale bread, which is often first topped with a poached egg.

Though its name references water, many modern recipes for this soup call for broth. No matter which liquid is used, the soup is usually bolstered with soffritto: sautéed minced onion, celery, and garlic. From there, recipes vary wildly. To choose between chicken broth and water, I made two batches of soffritto and added broth to one and water to the other. I also added fennel, for its anise notes, and bitter escarole, which seems delicate but holds up well when cooked. Canned tomatoes contributed acidity, canned cannellini beans brought heartiness, and a Pecorino rind lent salty savoriness. Tasters preferred the broth-based soup, though it still tasted somewhat lean.

A food processor makes quick work of chopping onion, celery, and garlic, which form the flavor base of this rustic Italian soup.

That’s because I had yet to add the egg. Most recipes call for stirring raw eggs or yolks directly into the soup, but curdling is always a risk. Would diluting the egg proteins with liquid make it harder for them to link up and form firm clumps when heated? I whisked two yolks into the canning liquid from the beans, which was already pretty viscous; this mixture thickened the broth beautifully.

The secret to preventing the egg yolk from curdling when added to our hot soup lies in using the starchy liquid left over from one of the other main ingredients.

I sprinkled in lots of parsley and oregano for freshness and, taking a cue from thrifty Italian cooks, added the sweet fronds from the fennel bulb. Finally, with no stale bread on hand, I toasted a few slices under the broiler and placed each slice in a bowl. Placing a poached egg on the toast before ladling in the soup made a more substantial meal. With a sprinkling of Pecorino and a spritz of lemon juice, this was a remarkably satisfying soup, all the more enjoyable for its frugal provenance.

Keys to Success

  • Rich, full-bodied broth

    A combination of egg yolks and starchy bean liquid gives the broth its silky texture.
  • Hearty, satisfying meal

    Cannellini beans and toasted country bread turn this soup into a meal.
  • Fresh, vibrant flavor

    Grassy parsley, lemony-sweet fennel fronds, and pungent oregano give our Acquacotta its distinctive flavor.
  • Appealing assortment of textures

    This soup showcases an array of textures: creamy cannellini beans, tender fennel, crusty country toast, and delicate escarole.