The Maremma, the coastal region of Tuscany that extends from Livorno to the border between Tuscany and Lazio, is famous for its livestock, its cowboys, and Acquacotta, literally cooked water. The dish is generally served as a one course meal, and in the past was eaten in the field by shepherds and stockmen. As is the case with any regional dish, there are as many versions as there are cooks.
- ½ cup olive oil
- A six inch stick of celery, a small carrot, and three small onions, minced together
- ½ a small, crumbled hot pepper, or more, to taste
- Salt to taste
- 2 pounds beet greens or spinach, stemmed, washed and coarsely chopped
- 1 pound peeled, chopped ripe tomatoes (canned will do in a pinch)
- Up to a pound of vegetables such as peas, beans, bell peppers, artichoke hearts, or whatever else is in season that you might fancy (optional)
- 1½ quarts boiling water
- 5 eggs, beaten in a bowl
- ½ cup grated pecorino Toscano (pecorino Toscano is relatively mild - substitute Parmigiano, not pecorino romano)
- ½ teaspoon salt (omit if the cheese is sharp)
- Thinly sliced toasted Italian bread
- Set a heavy bottomed pan on the fire. When it's hot, add the oil and the onion mixture; season the mixture with salt and the chili pepper. When the onions have turned translucent, add the greens. Cover and cook over low heat till the greens have wilted, then add the tomatoes and the other vegetables, if you're including them. Simmer for about twenty minutes, then add the boiling water. Check the seasoning, and simmer for another twenty minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the eggs and cheese together, adding salt if necessary.
- Line the bottoms of your soup bowls with thinly sliced toasted bread and spoon the beaten egg mixture over the bread. Bring the soup to the table, stir it well, and ladle it into the bowls.