Acquacotta, Zuppa Toscana from Maremma region of Tuscany

Acquacotta

The Maremma, the coastal region of Tuscany that extends from Livorno to the border between Tuscany and Lazio, is famous for its livestock, beaches and Acquacotta, literally cooked water. The dish is generally served as a one course meal, and in the past was eaten in the field by shepherds and stockmen. As is the case with any regional dish, there are as many versions as there are cooks. This one comes from my Italian friend Francesca.

Serves: 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped into very small pieces
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped into small slices
  • 2 pounds (1 kilo) beet greens or spinach, stemmed, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound (500 grams) peeled, chopped ripe tomatoes (canned will do in a pinch)
  • 6 cups (1 1/2 liters) boiling water
  • salt to taste
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • slices of toasted Italian bread
  1. Warm up the oil in a pot, add the onions, celery, carrot and bell pepper and cook until onions are translucent. Add the greens and cook cook over low heat until the greens have wilted.
  2. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about twenty minutes, then add the boiling water. Check the seasoning, and simmer for another twenty minutes.
  3. In the meantime, mix the eggs and cheese together. Line the bottoms of your 6 soup bowls with thinly sliced toasted bread and spoon the beaten egg mixture over the bread. Stir the soup well and ladle it into the bowls.

Buon appetito!

Pappa al Pomodoro, traditional bread soup dish in Tuscany

Pappa al Pomodoro di Francesca

This recipe comes from Francesca, a good Italian friend of mine who lives here in Florence. This is the way she prepares this thick bread and tomato soup, a classic Tuscan favorite.

Servings: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g (about 2 cups) peeled tomatoes, chopped
  • 250 g (about 1/2 lb) stale bread (preferably Tuscan bread), cut into smallish pieces
  • 1 liter (about 4 cups) vegetable broth, warmed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • basil, chopped coarsely
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (you can also use seasoned or spicy oil)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Place the stale bread in a large bowl and pour the warm broth over it, cover and set aside for at least 1 hour.
  2. Over medium heat and in a wide pot, pour the oil and saut the garlic. Add the tomatoes and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Go back to your bread, which should have absorbed most of the broth. Add the bread to the pot, squeezing it a bit with your hand as you do so to eliminate any excess broth. Cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.
  4. Serve warm, adding a bit of fresh cut basil and a swirl of good olive oil on top. And remember, always cut fresh basil with your hands, not with a knife or scissors!

Buon appetito

Zuppa Toscana from Northern Tuscany, Hearty Winter Soup Recipe

Zuppa Toscana (Northern Tuscany)

This recipe was contributed by Michele Molinari, whose great-grandmother was from southern Reggio Emilia on the border with Northern Tuscany. She used to call it Zuppa Toscana because she said that was the way it was prepared in Tuscany; Michele has no precise details as to where it originated for sure.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup millet
  • 1 cup borlotti beans
  • 2 cups chickpeas
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 2 cups farro
  • water
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 5 sage leaves
  • 10 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 cup green peas
  • salt and pepper
  1. Soak the millet, borlotti beans, chickpeas, lentils and farro in water overnight, changing the water 2 or 3 times if possible. Rinse and drain.
  2. Place them in a pot, cover with water, and bring to boil. Then simmer for about 2 hours, covered. Add salt towards the end of the cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 cup extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add onion, garlic, celery, carrots and sage. Fry for a few minutes over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. When the onion and the garlic begin to darken, add the tomatoes. Simmer until the excess water from the tomatoes evaporates. Turn off and wait for legumes to be ready.
  4. When legumes are cooked, take about 2 cups of the legumes and pure in a food processor or food mill. Return the pure to the pot.
  5. Add the bay leaves, green peas and the olive oil mixture, simmer for 1 hour semi-covered. Add boiling water if needed to reach the preferred thickness.

For a perfect taste, serve the following day after preparing the soup. Serve hot with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil, ground pepper, and a couple slices of slightly toasted bread.

Buon appetito!