Roman egg drop soup, stracciatella, is an easy and elegant dish that was once more common on dinner tables than it has become in more modern times. Once sampled, the dish often converts lovers of both Italian food and Italian soups back into the folds of cooks who gladly prepare it again and again as a type of comfort food. In some families stracciatella was served at the start of formal meals. The Italian egg-drop soup's few ingredients, however, speak to its more rudimentary appeal, with only a handful of required ingredients, ease of preparation and memorable flavor.
One of the main stracciatella ingredients is broth, and different types of broth can be used, including chicken broth, reduced sodium chicken broth and homemade meat broth, Brodo di Carne, based on turkey or beef. Basic stracciatella ingredients also include eggs, salt, parmigiano cheese and grated lemon rind or lemon juice, with the optional addition of chopped parsley in some Italian egg-drop soup recipes. Pepper and semolina are options, and some cooks prefer the additions of nutmeg and spinach or Swiss chard.
In some circles this traditional Italian soup was once thought of as a meal to be eaten only by the poor, or cucina povera. The soup’s name is based on the appearance of the eggs after a cook whisks them into the broth. They resemble straccetti, or small, torn rags that some people say resemble ribbons, leading to its being known in some circles as “torn-apart soup.” The faster a cook wields the whisk, the smaller the “torn rags” become. Stracciatella can be an easy light dinner after a long day at work or caring for the children, and a side of hearty sourdough or Italian bread will round out the meal.
Some cooks prefer to be a little creative with their stracciatella recipes. They add all sorts of vegetables to the broth, including squash, celery, sweet peppers, tomatoes or carrots. Others like to top the soup with a bit of pesto or cut up bits of basil, or they include small pastina or other types of pasta. Some families who must follow a gluten-free diet have adapted the recipe to make it edible for those who must avoid gluten in their diets.