I remember watching my grandfather and my mother make tortellini — ring-shaped pasta they filled with cheese. It was a labor of love; not hard to do but not something you’d want to do after a long day at work. My mom often used the cheese tortellini in her stracciatella soup. The word stracciatella means “little shreds,” and the soup gets its name from drizzling a beaten egg mixture into the boiling broth at the finish. If you don’t like eggs, you can leave out the egg and still have a delicious soup consisting of chicken broth, tortellini, meatballs, and spinach (you can also lighten it up by substituting turkey meatballs or make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth and replacing the meatballs with mushrooms).
I make this soup a lot after a busy day using Three Bridges Organic Cheese Tortellini, which is filled with a creamy blend of ricotta, aged Parmesan, and Romano. The company is based in Benicia, hence the name, and you can find it at your local Safeway.
Stracciatella (Italian Egg Drop Soup)
For the meatballs:
- 1 egg (preferably pastured)
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Handful of fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, finely minced
- Big pinch dried Italian
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 4 ounces ground pork
- 4 ounces lean ground beef
In a bowl, combine the egg, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, garlic, and breadcrumbs, and mix together with a fork. Add the ground pork and ground beef and, with clean hands, mix until just combined with seasonings (do not over mix). Roll into balls the size of a small walnut and place on a sheet pan until ready to use.
Note: To add flavor and texture, I sauté the meatballs in a pan with some olive oil until they form a brown crust on all sides, then remove them to the sheet pan. (This extra step isn’t necessary, but it does add depth to the soup, so I think it’s worth doing.)
For the soup:
- 6 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 8 ounces meatballs (above)
- 1 package Three Bridges Organic Cheese Tortellini
- 1 egg (preferably pastured), beaten with a teaspoon of water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)
Bring the broth to a gentle simmer in a large pot over medium heat. Add the meatballs and tortellini and cook for 8 to 9 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat together the egg and water. Turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a vigorous boil. Slowly stream the egg mixture into the pot while whisking soup vigorously in a figure eight motion. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and add spinach, stirring until just wilted. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.