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.
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.
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.