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Poor Soup

Zuppa Povera


Not only was my grandmother Galasso a good cook, but she was also a shrewd businesswoman. The house I grew up in belonged to her. To make ends meet for her large family of eight children, she rented out the bathtub, the only one in the neighborhood, on Saturday nights for five cents a person.

She also rented rooms and provided simple meals for factory workers. This soup, which is inexpensive to make and very nourishing, was served to many a boarder in my grandmother's kitchen.


1/2 cup long-grain rice

1 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons beef marrow or Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

2 ribs celery, sliced thin

1/2 cup minced onion

2 1/2 cups (4 ounces) fresh spinach, washed and torn into pieces

1 pound very ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced

2 cups hot chicken broth

2 cups hot water

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

4 to 6 large eggs

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley


In a medium pot, boil the rice in the water until rice is cooked, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium soup pot, heat the beef marrow or olive oil until hot. Add the celery and onion, and sauté the vegetables until soft. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Add the tomatoes, stirring the mixture for a few minutes, then add the hot broth, hot water, and tomato paste. Stir to dissolve the paste, then add the salt, pepper, and rice. Cover the pot and let the soup cook gently for about 5 minutes.

Raise the heat and bring the soup to a boil. Gently crack each egg into the soup, spacing them so they do not touch. Gently boil the soup until the eggs are set. Sprinkle on the parsley. Serve the soup immediately, allowing 1 egg per person.

Note: I sprinkle grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top.

This recipe is from NELLA CUCINA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company Inc., in 1993.


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