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

Linguini Meatballs


I’ve only cooked spaghetti/linguini with meatballs two or three times in the last 10 years. The dish doesn’t exist in Italian restaurants in Germany and I would be hard pressed to think of a can or jar of marinara sauce with meatballs you could buy here.

Instead, the poison of choice should you be camping and all you have is a can opener and a lighter would be ravioli in marinara sauce. The camping crowd loves it, as do students, little kids and other strange people 🙂

The ravioli are so soft you could use them as brains on Halloween and the mouthfeel is something to get used to. But I digress.

But, every once in a while I get a hankering for good old American meatballs with pasta. Tonight was such a night.

  • 1 pound of ground beef/ground pork half and half
  • 1 can of very good Italian tomato puree (like sauce, but without herbs)
  • 2 Tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 Thai chilis, ground in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • dried rosemary, thyme and oregano, about 1 heaping tsp everything counted
  • 1/2 cup of panko crumbs
  • 1 large egg

Combine the ground meat with all ingredients except the tomato sauce, the tomato paste and the wine. Use your hands to combine everything, but don’t overdo, otherwise the meatballs will become rubbery.

Slowly saute the meatballs in a saucepan until they have browned and are half done. Take them out and park them while you add the tomato paste to the hot pan and let it start to color. Add the wine and stir to get all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato puree and a pinch of oregano, salt and pepper. If you want, add 2 tbsp of good olive oil. Put the meatballs back in the sauce, put a lid on the saucepan and reduce the heat to barely simmering.

Start the water for the pasta, adding 16 grams of salt (1/2 oz.), wait for it to boil and add the pasta. Cook until they are al dente, take out and put in a soup bowl immediately and follow it by adding meatballs and sauce. Top with parmesan cheese (the real stuff, not the grated stuff that smells like baby puke).

Enjoy. I did 🙂