Nearly every culture has a soup based on chicken and egg. Sometimes it's in the form of egg and flour dumplings such as the Russian-German Knephla Soup, or the Algerian Djari Byad which sees egg yolks and lemon juice being whisked into chicken soup at the last moment. This dish is an example of how the Italians can also take the simplest of ingredients and put them together in a way that looks, smells and tastes absolutely delicious. Stracciatella is a rustic Roman egg-drop soup that's traditionally served with a handful of cheese, but in this modern version, spinach, orzo, chicken and sautéed leeks have also been added for a rich and satisfying twist on the Italian classic.
The name Stracciatella translates as 'torn apart' or 'rags' in Italian, which aptly describes the eggs, which look like tiny torn rags as they cook in the broth. This easy recipe is prepared by simply adding sautéed leeks, shredded chicken, grated pecorino, salt, pepper, parsley, nutmeg, and orzo to boiling chicken broth. Beaten egg is then added in a slow stream to produce the stracciatelle, or little shreds of cooked egg, producing a rich and satisfying dish from the simplest of ingredients. A hearty rustic soup, Stracciatella with Spinach, Leeks & Orzo is easy to prepare and makes a perfect lunch or first course.
Stracciatella with Spinach, Leeks & Orzo
1 tbsp olive oil
2 8 bone-in chicken breasts with skin on
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 cup cooked or frozen spinach, chopped
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
6 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup orzo
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and ground pepper. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the chicken, skin side down, and sauté until browned, about five minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side, about another three minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate. Do not drain the oil from the pot.
Add the chopped leeks, parsley, spinach and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the leeks begin to soften, about three minutes. Pour in 6 cups of the chicken stock, reserving the last 1/2 cup for the eggs. Return the chicken to the pot, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, beat two eggs with the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock and 1/4 cup of parmesan until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.
After 20 minutes, add the orzo, cover and let cook about 7-8 minutes, until it's almost cooked through. Once the orzo is al dente, remove the chicken breasts from the soup, remove and discard the skin. Using two forks, pull the meat off the bone and shred into bite sized pieces. Return the chopped chicken to the soup and discard the bones.
Pour the beaten egg mixture into the soup, whisking vigorously. Turn the heat to medium-high and simmer, whisking occasionally for five minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the soup begins to look curdled, that’s how it looks as the eggs cook. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle into warmed soup bowl and garnish with grated parmesan and chopped Italian parsley.