Stracciatella a la Bina

This is an Italian variation on your basic, nourishing egg-drop soup. It’s prepared in two stages; the broth is cooked the night before, so the next day’s preparation is relatively short and simple.

For the broth, place a whole chicken (or four leg quarters) in a large stock pot. Cover with water and add 1 tablespoon salt. Cut a yellow onion (unpeeled!) in half. Stick two cloves in each half, place the cut sides down on a hot element, let blacken, then add to pot. Also add a bay leaf or two, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 2 hours, or until chicken pieces are tender but not yet falling apart.

Remove chicken from pot to a separate platter, cover and refrigerate. Remove onion and bay leaf from broth and discard. Refrigerate broth overnight.

In the morning, skim fat from broth. Remove skin and fat from meat and meat from bones. (You can probably pick it off the bones entirely by hand if you’ve cooked it correctly!) Set the meat aside.

Clean a kilo or so of fresh spinach; discard yellow or wilted leaves and any tough stems. Rinse and let drip dry, then place in a large pot. Steam the spinach by adding a small amount of water, cover, then turn the heat on high until the pot starts to steam. Turn heat off and let the spinach sit. It should be still bright green and but tender when it’s done. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into small (roughly 1/2-inch square) pieces. (If you’d rather use frozen spinach, take two or three packets and just thaw them in the fridge overnight.)

In a separate bowl, measure out 1 cup of the cold chicken broth. Add 3 tablespoons each of durum semolina and grated Parmesan (or Romano) cheese, 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, a pinch of nutmeg, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Whisk together until fully blended.

While you’re preparing the spinach and the egg-drop mixture, heat the remaining chicken broth to boiling. Add a bouillon cube if desired, or more salt if needed. When boiling, whisk in the egg-drop mixture, which should form small “rags” as it cooks. Reduce heat immediately to low. When egg drops form small, ragged clumps, add spinach and chicken. Heat until all are warmed through, then serve with Calabrese bread and garlic-flavored olive oil for dipping. Soup can be topped with grated cheese, chopped green onion and fresh-ground pepper if desired. Serves 4 to 6, who will all be wanting (and getting!) seconds.

Buon appetito!

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