Step-by-step Guide to Cooking Vegan Acquacotta
Acquacotta, one of the most celebrated dishes from the heart of Tuscany, is a symbol of its robust and honest cuisine. This traditional soup has its roots in the open fields, being a staple meal for the Butteri, the Tuscan cowboys, during their cattle herding activities. Some see a parallel between this rustic soup and the medieval ‘arcidossina’ soup, even though the ingredients differ. Acquacotta is a versatile and humble dish, its ingredients varying by region and season – hence the name, which literally translates as ‘cooked water’.
The main star of this dish is the vegetables, once foraged directly from the fields. These were complemented with unsalted bread, locally known as ‘pane sciocco’, olive oil, and salt, essentials in the Butteri’s saddlebags. As mentioned earlier, the choice of vegetables varies greatly, depending on the season. One could find cardoons (artichoke thistles), broccoli, wild chicory, cabbage, green beans, borage, dandelion (known locally as ‘pisciacane’), or any vegetable that adds a robust flavor.
While there are numerous regional variations of this soup, the Viterbo version is prepared with onion, garlic, chicory, large-leaf chicory, water, olive oil, potatoes, seasonal herbs (wild ones, if available), occasionally mushrooms, and hard wheat bread that’s traditionally unsalted, stale and/or toasted.
Recipe for 4 servings Difficulty: Low Preparation: 20 mins Cooking Time: 60 mins
5 Onions 1 Celery stalk 2 kg San Marzano tomatoes 2 Basil leaves 1 Hot red chili (optional) Vegetable stock Black pepper 4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil Salt to taste Tuscan Bread slices
- To begin preparing Acquacotta, start by cleaning and slicing the onions.
- Place a large pot on the stove and pour in a generous swirl of olive oil. Add the prepared onion, cover the pot and let it sweat over low heat.
- Wash and slice the celery – thinner slices for the harder part, larger pieces for the tender part. Add the celery to the pot.
- Once again, cover the pot and let the vegetables sweat, adding vegetable stock if needed. In the meantime, wash and chop the tomatoes into small pieces. Add them to the pot along with a hot red chili (adjust quantity according to your taste).
- Season the Acquacotta lightly with salt and flavor it with basil leaves. Let the soup simmer, covered and on low heat, adding more vegetable stock if needed.
- In the meantime, grill some slices of Tuscan bread, if possible.
- Once the vegetables are cooked and the Acquacotta is well-flavored, serve it in earthenware cocottes over a slice of toasted bread.
- Serve the Acquacotta with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a fresh basil leaf on top.”
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