In Italy, when young, tender spears of wild asparagus pop-up in the fields and markets, Wild Asparagus Soup becomes the star on the Menu del Giorno at home and in restaurants. The land is so rich and fertile, it is amazing how many different vegetables, plants, and herbs grow spontaneously – it makes you want to cook. Especially popular in Calabria, Lazio, Sicily, and Rome is the combination of asparagus with egg. For this soup, beaten egg flavored with grated cheese is whisked into hot broth. The heat cooks the beaten egg very quickly and whisking it causes it to form thin strands, called stracciatella.
Asparagus can be wild or cultivated, green, white, purple, or a mix. After you’ve "stalked" the wild asparagus in your local farmers’ market or grocery store, this Italian recipe is a snap to prepare. The soup is prepared similar to a consomme’, as in the photo made with beef broth, or as a thick stew by increasing the amount of ingredients added to the broth.
It is especially appealing as a minestra or mid-day snack to anyone recovering from a cold, a hangover, or feeling less than stellar, it will make you “feel right”. If you have children who are learning to appreciate the food they eat, they love to help out by making the stracciatella! When pressed for time, serve Zuppa di Asparagi as a light meal-in-one. For dessert? Serve slices of the same cheese used in the soup with fresh fruit. I love this soup, and hope you will too. Simple and satisfying, it is truly a celebration of spring.
4 servings. Cooking time is 8 to 10 minutes.
1 bunch fresh asparagus (1 pound or 454 g)
6 cups (1.4 liters) beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (1 ounce or 28 g) grated aged hard Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 slices of stale bread (any kind you like)
1 garlic clove, cut in half
Extra-virgin olive oil, optional
Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
Finely ground white pepper to taste
1. Asparagus: Trim the ends and peel the stalks if preferred. Diagonally cut into short lengths. Keep the asparagus tips separate from the stalks since they require less time to cook. Blanch in water first, then simmer in broth, to keep the flavors distinct; if you prefer, cook the asparagus directly in the broth.
In a pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the asparagus stalks first for several seconds up to 1 minute, then add the tips and cook for several seconds; cooking time depends on their thickness. Keep them remaining firm, then drain them and plunge into a bowl of cold water or run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and reserve.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the cheese, reserve. Toast the bread slices, rub one side with the cut side of the garlic clove. Place one slice of toast in each soup bowl, lightly drizzle olive oil over the toast.
2. Making the Soup: In a pot, bring the broth to a simmer. Add the blanched asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Using a fork, test the asparagus and when it is almost done to your liking, add the egg mixture as follows:
Bring the broth to almost a boil – steam rises – then turn off the heat. Pour the eggs into the hot broth and whisk with a fork making stracciatella, or long strands of cooked beaten egg, this takes only seconds. Season to taste.
3. Serving: Ladle the Wild Asparagus Soup over the toasted bread. Enjoy a bit of springtime goodness.
Photo: The different sizes, shapes, and colors of wild asparagus.