A Recipe from Tuscany: Cooked Water

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Photo: “Toscana – Val d’Orcia – dalla Via della Foce” © 2009 Oishi Kuranosuke, used under a
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

If you ask me, it’s a given that Italian food (you know, the kind cooked in Italy) is going to delight your taste buds. In addition to the gustatory glee I get from savoring a perfect dish of risotto al gorgonzola, my ears simply frolic at the melodies of the names of these dishes. Tagliatelle al pomodoro. Penne all’arrabbiata. Cooked water. Canelloni al – wait…Cooked water?

While “cooked water” doesn’t exactly bring music to my ears, it does bring smiles to my belly.

Known in Tuscany as acquacotta, cooked water is a typical Tuscan soup that is prepared in Tuscan homes throughout the region. Traditionally, this soup was prepared in the fields and forest by shepherds and woodsmen. Because of that, the ingredients are simple, yet still delicious.

If your palate has been sufficiently whetted, sign up for our Tuscany 101 class on your next Untour to Tuscany and learn from a bona fide Italian cook! Not planning to head to Tuscany any time soon? No worries. Here’s an easy, local acquacotta recipe that should tide you over until you make it to Tuscany.

Ingredients for Acquacotta all’uso della Val D’Orcia (“Cooked Water” Val D’Orcia style) (serves about 10)

  • Olive oil
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1 medium red onion
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 4.5 lbs. beet greens (or Swiss chard or spinach)
  • 10 cups boiling water
  • 1 egg per person
  • Loaf of crusty bread

Recipe for Acquacotta all’uso della Val D’Orcia (“Cooked Water” Val D’Orcia style) (serves about 10)

  1. Cover bottom of pan with oil
  2. Add 4 stalks celery, sliced thinly by hand, 1 chopped red onion, pinch of crushed red pepper, pinch salt
  3. Saute over medium flame until golden/translucent
  4. Add 1 cup red wine and cook until it boils off
  5. Add 16 oz can crushed tomatoes, cook for 10 minutes
  6. Add 4.5 lbs rinsed and chopped beet greens (or Swiss chard or spinach), cook for 5 to 10 minutes
  7. Add 1 cup boiling water for each person, bring to boil, cook for 1/2 hour
  8. Before serving add a beaten egg per person to soup, add one slice of bread at bottom of each bowl before serving

A LITTLE EXTRA: If you’re wondering who Val D’Orcia is, join the club. I was a part of that club, too, until I learned Val D’Orcia was a place, not a person! And, a beautiful place it is indeed. So beautiful, in fact, that famous movies like The English Patient, La Vita é Bella, and Under the Tuscan Sun were filmed there to try to capture its splendor.

What’s your favorite Tuscan recipe?

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