Acquacotta


This wonderful soup from Tuscany caught my attention when I was watching a video on youtube by the very competent folks from America’s Test Kitchen. These people know what they are doing! Here is the link if you want to avoid my droning 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPMxxuzJJNw&t=3s

The soup, which is vegetarian and could probably be vegan, is a great example of Italian or Tuscan ingenuity when using products available to the citizens there.

First, one needs to make a sofrito: In my case (and I halved the recipe on America’s Test Kitchen) I used three short stalks about 4 inches long of celery, 1 medium onion and 2 cloves of garlic. I pulsed these vegetables in a food processor until they were very small and slowly fried them and 1/2 tsp chili flakes in some olive oil until they produced an aromatic fond on the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes. I pulsed a can of tomatoes without their skins until they were also very small, but not smooth. This tomato puree was added to the pot next and stirred from time to time until reduced enough to show a line when going through the pot with a wooden spoon.

Next, I added a jar (450 ml) of chicken broth and some rind from a piece of Pecorino Romano. I understand the original recipe used water, and I’m sure it would also work 🙂 Right after the chicken broth was added, I cut fennel fronds from a bulb and set them aside. Then I diced the bulb in 1/2 inch pieces and added that to the pot for 10 minutes.

After that, I chopped parsley to make a quarter cup and added it to the fennel fronds. The last herb to be added was oregano. The video recommends fresh oregano, but I came up empty today and used some Mexican oregano I recently purchased. It worked very well.

After that, I added half a head of escarole (Endiviensalat in German). It is slightly bitter and is usually served as a salad in Germany, with a mustard based dressing as a favorite. I chopped this salad into 1 inch squares, washed it well and added it to the pot. Along with the escarole, I added the canellini beans (from a can), reserving the liquid and mixing an egg yolk with it, to thicken the soup later on. After another 10 minutes, the escarole was done and I added the egg mixture, turned off the heat and added the herbs.

To finish the dish, I toasted a piece of rye bread and placed it at the bottom of the soup plate. The original recipe uses stale bread and olive oil, but this was the best I could do.

Then, I ladled some soup over the bread and topped it with some grated Pecorino. Wow!

This soup was one of the best soups I have ever eaten, I couldn’t stop at one and ate another plate right after the first one. With the second plate, I remembered the video recommended some lemon juice and I added some. It made the dish even better.

This soup is easy to make, inexpensive and quick (40 minutes).

You will need:

  • 1 stalk of celery, in half inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • some fennel fronds
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 can of chicken broth
  • 1 escarole
  • 1 can of canellini beans
  • egg yolk/bean fluid
  • 1 rind of Pecorino
  • some grated Pecorino
  • stale bread/olive oil

Spaghetti Meatballs Tomato Bell Pepper Sauce


This recipe isn’t really extraordinary, but it has a few twists that make it a little bit different.

First, the meatballs were made using veal instead of beef or pork, making a milder and softer ball. I also added some parmesan and a little bit of day old white bread in small pieces. Salt and pepper, too.

Secondly, the tomato sauce was made by combining a can of very good italian tomatoes (Datterini by „Mutti“), which are date(sized) tomatoes with a wonderful sweetness. To these tomatoes I added a jar of chicken stock without salt and two red bell peppers. I used a potato masher to mash the datterini, and smoothed the sauce in a blender once the bell peppers were done. To this mixture I added a Serrano chili, but you decide if you want that heat. All I had to do was to reduce the sauce to make it a little bit more full-bodied. Check the seasoning and put the raw meatballs into the sauce to slowly simmer until they’re done. Add a little bit of lemon zest.

Cook the spaghetti (I like to use the De Cecco brand, they use brass spouts to process their pasta, which roughens it and allows it to absorb more sauce than conventionally produced pasta.

All you have to do once everything is ready is to give it a dusting of fresh parmesan.

The dish itself is a kind of anachronism, because of the attempt to make it as italian as possible, when in reality the meatball is a thoroughly american invention 🙂

Don’t get me wrong: there are italian dishes that have small salsiccia meatballs, but the standard spaghetti and meatballs present on every italian restaurant in the USA is an american invention.

That said, there is nothing at all wrong with that, I grew up with them and like them from time to time 🙂

 

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