Ribbons of eggs add protein and texture to this easy Italian soup. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

Healthy Cooking: Chase away winter with just 4 ingredients

It’s January. Let’s make soup.

If you’re on a post-holiday budget (or diet), if you’re feeling the winter blues (or under the winter weather), Stracciatella alla Romana is a low-cost, low-calorie comfort food that will carry you until spring arrives.

Stracciatella hails from Italy, but since it’s made from just four basic ingredients — five if you’re feeling fancy and add the optional garnish — you only have to travel as far as your kitchen to make it.

Start by cracking a few eggs into a bowl, one egg for every two cups of broth. Whip the eggs until they are well combined, pausing to admire their cheery yellow color on a dreary winter day. Add a little grated cheese. Regular readers know my preference for Pecorino Romano, which is made from bold-tasting sheep’s milk. A little goes a long way, so you can use less cheese and still enjoy big flavor. If you have only grated Parmesan in the house, by all means use it instead. Just add an extra tablespoon or two so the yummy umami-ness shines through.

Next heat up a broth. Maybe you have homemade stock in the freezer, left over from your holiday cooking. Fantastic! Maybe opening a box of low-sodium prepared stock is the best you can do. Fantastic! As long as the stock is delicious, your soup will be too. In this recipe, I use chicken broth, because the chicken deepens the soup’s savory notes. If you are cooking for vegetarians, a good vegetable broth gets the job done as well. Whichever stock you choose, bring it to a low boil (the liquid at the top is just starting to move), reduce the heat, and prepare to witness something magical.

Whisk your broth. Drizzle your egg and cheese mixture into the broth while it moves. At first, the broth will look cloudy. Keep whisking. After a few seconds, the broth will miraculously clear, and the eggs will come together in thin ribbons. Stracciatella literally translates to “rags,” which is a reference to the cooked eggs’ stringy appearance. But I think calling them ribbons is more in keeping with our kinder, gentler January. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for brightness, and your happy, healthy bowl of yumminess is ready to go.

I find beauty in the simplicity of this soup. A hunk of bread and a side salad are all I need to enjoy stracciatella for lunch or dinner. (OK, for breakfast too. Eggs are a breakfast food, right?) But if you are of the more-is-more mentality, stracciatella is happy to oblige. Consider adding cooked chiffonade-cut spinach, kale or other dark, leafy greens for more vitamins and color. Craving carbs? Make it heartier by adding a cup of cooked orzo or rice. You can also experiment with herbs and spices; fresh basil, ground cinnamon, red and black peppers are all at home in traditional stracciatella recipes. Then enjoy your beautiful soup, and dream of warmer days to come.

Recipe: Healthy Cooking Stracciatella Alla Romana
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 2 quarts unsalted chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
  • Whisk the eggs in a small bowl until well combined. Add the Pecorino and mix again.
  • Heat the chicken broth over medium-high heat until it reaches a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium and, while gently stirring the broth, drizzle the egg mixture into the broth. Continue to simmer and stir for 2-3 minutes until the eggs form “rags” and the broth is no longer opaque. Finish with lemon juice and garnish with parsley. Serve hot. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 85 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 8 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 5 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 146 milligrams cholesterol, 155 milligrams sodium.

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