Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking. My mother took the fresh produce my father created and taught me how to prepare cucina Italiana by smell, touch and taste. As a child watching her in the kitchen, I was fascinated with the movement of her hands as she wove intricate details into preparing the made-from-scratch, mouthwatering meals that her mother had served, and her mother before her.
I’ve provided some of my favorite Italian recipes in my new book San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History of Little Italy and Beyond. Many of the recipes were handed down from my mother’s kitchen, including the following Italian soup.
Grandma’s Stracciatella Soup
My mother made this soup for me when I was growing up. As kids we would enjoy a big bowl of it after school or as a starter before our family dinner. Spinach simmered in a chicken-flavored broth is good for you and the addition of eggs and cheese makes it even tastier. Buon Appetito!
4 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach leaves (substitute 12-ounces frozen cut leaf spinach)
6 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon seasoning
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
In a medium saucepot combine spinach and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook spinach until wilted; season with chicken bouillon.
In a small mixing bowl whisk eggs and Parmesan cheese. Bring spinach to a boil and gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the soup, stirring gently with a fork and cooking eggs until done, about 1 minute.
At service: Ladle soup into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.
As ethnic neighborhoods in other cities assimilate to American life, the exuberant local flavor of San Diego’s Little Italy remains both culturally and culinarily distinct. Tucked between Interstate 5 and San Diego Bay southeast of San Diego International Airport, the blocks surrounding the landmark Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church contain many of the most notable eateries and gourmet cafes in America’s Finest City.” Join Maria Desiderata Montana, a daughter of that Italian heritage and one of the city’s most notable food writers, on this savory tour through the zesty Italian food traditions, businesses and recipes both in Little Italy and across San Diego.