Italian egg-drop soup. That’s how I have heard versions of this soup described. And there appear to be many versions, with light chicken broth, or added spinach or chicken. In fact, the first time I concocted this soup, I didn’t know stracciatella was an actual thing. It was pure kitchen happenstance, and one little discovery I am glad to have made.
My version of stracciatella is made with roasted vegetable broth that is insanely flavorful and rich. In fact, the broth is so rich, I originally wanted only the lightest of add-ins, and decided the delicate egg ribbons would give a bit of body without diluting the flavor. And I hit that nail on the head. Only later did I see a recipe for stracciatella using fresh chicken stock did it occur to me that I had stumbled upon something classic, and could consider my humble little accident a gourmet discovery. The origins of this broth itself were kind of a misstep, a side alley I went down in an attempt at creating a thick vegetable soup. But this method of roasting the vegetables, then simmering in water with herbs creates a broth so packed with flavor any initial doubts about “plain old vegetable broth” will disappear. Besides, the enchanting fragrance of roasting, then simmering, vegetables fills your house with the smell of love and comfort.
I love this broth on its own, sipped out of a mug, particular when feeling a little puny. It feels fortifying. Add the delicate threads of egg, and it has an added protein boost and a bit more body. But this broth is versatile. Stir in some cooked small pasta like ditalini, acini di pepe, or orzo and it takes on a whole new dimension.
Roasted Vegetable Stracciatella
3 medium onions
5 celery stalks
5 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned, with a few green leaves reserved
5 medium tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme
A few sprigs rosemary
A handful of celery leaves
8 cups water
4 egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the onions into eighths and place in a large rimmed baking sheet. You may need to use two. Cut the carrots, celery, leeks into chunks and add to the baking sheet. Quarter the tomatoes and tuck them into the vegetables, all in one layer. Place the peeled garlic cloves on top of the vegetables (don’t let the garlic touch the bottom of the tray – it will burn) and drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil over everything. Roast the vegetables until soft and slightly browned, about 45 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, make a bouquet garni with the herbs. Lay out one or two sections of green leek leaves on the counter, then place the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and celery leaves on top of the leaves and roll into a tight little cigar. Tie it up with kitchen twine.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and scrape everything into a large Dutch oven. Heat the tray on the stove, and deglaze the pan with a little water, scraping up any browned bits or stuck pieces. Pour this and add it to the soup pot. Add the bouquet garni. Pour in 8 cups of water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes.
Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and carefully spoon the soup into the strainer. Press on the solids to extract as much broth as possible. You will probably have to do this in a couple of batches. Discard the pressed vegetable pulp. Rinse out the stock pot. Rinse out the strainer, then line it with two layers of cheesecloth. Pour the broth through the strainer into the stockpot. Bring the stock back to a boil. Season to taste with salt.
Thoroughly whisk the egg yolks in measuring jug with a pouring spout. When the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and stir it well to get it moving in a circle with a little vortex. Slowly drizzle the eggs into the swirling broth, running your spoon through the stream to cut little ribbons.