Food & Drink

Even a messed-up Italian soup is a fine and easy supper

Stracciatella With Spinach is basically an Italian egg drop soup.
Stracciatella With Spinach is basically an Italian egg drop soup. Deb Lindsey/The Washington Post

The next time you're frustrated by a dish that doesn't turn out picture-perfect, the proper attitude is: So what?

Refer to Exhibit A: a third and rather hurried attempt to re-create the Italian egg drop soup called stracciatella, which has cheese in it but is not to be confused with the Italian buffalo's-milk cheese or the Italian ice cream of the same name (“stracciare” means to rip up; shreds of some kind are involved).

It takes just five or six ingredients to make this quick and healthful soup, but technique is key. You must blend – not whisk – the peppery egg and Parm mixture so the yolks and whites marry well without becoming frothy. Then, you must stir the heated, spinach-y broth as you pour in the mixture; the whirl of liquid should lengthen the eggy additions into tender strands that cook almost on contact.

If the broth is too hot or the eggs are overbeaten, you could wind up with a milky-looking brew and more chunky bits of egg white. It might be easier to execute those silky strands if they were just beaten egg, but then the cheese would clump on its own or largely melt from view.

Does the soup we photographed on that particular day taste just as good as the ideal? I can offer an honest affirmative, as I was able to produce the shredded egg-and-cheese effect on the fourth try – and the one after that.

Stracciatella With Spinach (Egg Drop Soup)

From “My Master Recipes: 165 Recipes to Inspire Confidence in the Kitchen, With Dozens of Variations,” by Patricia Wells (William Morrow, 2017).

About 8 ounces (4 cups packed) fresh spinach

2 large eggs

6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

Freshly cracked black pepper

4 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

Kosher salt (optional)

Stack and roll the spinach, then cut crosswise into thin ribbons (chiffonade).

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, then use a fork to gently break up the yolks; do not whisk so vigorously that they become frothy. Gently stir in the cheese, then season lightly with pepper.

Bring the broth to barely a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low. Add the spinach and cook for about a minute, or until it has wilted. Remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.

Gradually pour in the egg mixture in a thin stream from about 8 inches above the saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon in one direction, until the eggs turn into ribbons. If you introduce the mixture too quickly or stir too vigorously, the eggs will turn into rubbery clumps. If the broth is too hot, the egg mixture will diffuse into the liquid. (And if this doesn't work for you, it's OK: The soup will taste just as good.)

Taste and add salt and/or more pepper, as needed. Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with a bit more cheese and serve right away.

Per serving: 110 calories, 9 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar

Yield: 4 servings.

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