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!

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!

Zuppa Toscana della Nonna Tina, Minestrone Recipe from Florence

This is a staple in our home, a soup my mother-in-law Luisa makes often during the winter in large batches. This recipe has been in her family for at least 100 years! She told me she remembers when her grandmother used to make it for her when she was growing up. Her grandmother had gotten the recipe passed down from her mother who in turn had gotten it from hers! As with all passed down recipes, she didn’t have it written down and every time makes it by estimating quantities. I asked her more or less to estimate how much of each ingredient and then made it myself. It came out very good, and here you can see some pictures we took as we prepared it a few days ago!

INGREDIENTS

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cannellini beans, cooked
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1/2 savoy cabbage, cut into small pieces
  • 1 medium leek, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 vegetable buillon cubes
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • handful of fresh parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • 1 cup farro, uncooked (optional)
    1. In a large pot, add enough extravirgin olive oil to cover the bottom, add onion and saut until tender.
chopped onions in pot with olive oil
    1. Add cannellini beans and the celery, carrots, cabbage, leek, garlic and vegetable buillon cubes. Add enough water to cover all of the ingredients and a bit more. It shouldn’t be too watery.
veggies in pot
    1. Simmer uncovered on low heat for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add some hot water while it cooks if it seems to be getting too dense.
parsley into pot
    1. Add the parsley and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste the soup and add salt if needed. Add the basil and remove from heat.
soup is ready to eat!

The soup is ready to be served!

Variations: The quantities of the vegetables and beans can be changed to your preferences. If you add more beans, it will be more dense and flavorful. You can add more vegetables to make it lighter. It is good all by itself or with some toasted bread dipped into the soup.

With farro: Once the soup is cooked, add the farro and more water. The cooking time will vary depending on what farro you have used. Follow the time indications on the package, although generally it takes 30-40 minutes for the farro to be cooked. The soup will become more dense, a hearty soup great for winter! I recommend you try this soup with and without farro, and see which one you prefer.

Buon appetito!