Farewell, Contessa Lisa of Tenuta di Capezzana
Addio, Contessa Lisa
Contessa Lisa Contini Bonacossi of Tenuta di Capezzana in Carmignano, Tuscany, has influenced me (and many others) as few have. Hers was a great life, dedicated to her late husband, Count Ugo, her seven children and the constant flow of visitors to her villa from all over the world. Her warmth, openness and generosity (not to mention her considerable talent in the kitchen) made her one of the region's—and Italy’s—most revered hostesses and beloved personalities. All of us at Manicaretti wish to extend homage to this great lady by sharing with you one of her famous recipes, from one of the most iconic authorities on Italian food, Marcella Hazan.
From Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Acquacotta – Tuscan Peasant Soup with Cabbage and Beans
“The great house this particular recipe comes from is Villa Capezzana, whose mistress, Countess Lisa Contini Bonacossi, is not only one of the most gifted of Tuscan cooks, but fortunately, one of the most hospitable. Equally fortunate for the guests that are always turning up at Capezzana, among the red wines her husband Ugo and son Vittorio make are two that in Tuscany stand out for their refinement, Carmignano and Ghiaie della Furba.”
For 6 servings
- 4 cups onions sliced rather thick, about ⅓ inch
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups celery, chopped fine, the leaves included
- 3 cups Savoy cabbage, shredded very fine
- 2 cups kale leaves, chopped very fine
- 1 cup fresh,ripe,firm tomato,skinned raw with peeler, seeds removed, seeds removed, and cut into ¼ inch dice
- 8 fresh basil leaves, torn into 2 or 3 pieces
- 1 bouillon cube
- ⅓ cup dried cannellini beans, soaked, cooked and drained
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
- 12 thin, toasted slices day-old Tuscan style or other good country bread
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 eggs
Choose a saucepan (or oven-to-table ceramic casserole with a lid) that can subsequently contain all the vegetables and beans and enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Put in the onion, some salt, ¼ cup of olive oil, and turn on the heat to medium. Cook the onion, turning it over occasionally, until it wilts. Add the chopped celery, turning it over to coat it well, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chopped kale leaves, turning them over and cooking them briefly as just described. Add the diced tomato and the basil, turning them over once or twice, then add the bouillon cube with enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Cover tightly and cook for at least 2 and possibly 3 hours, replenishing water when necessary to maintain its original level.
Preheat the oven on 400°F.
Put the drained, cooked beans and several grindings of pepper in the pot with vegetables, stir, taste, and correct for salt and pepper.
Line the bottom of the ceramic casserole with the sliced bread. Pour over it the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, then the vegetable broth from the pot, then all the vegetables and beans in the pot. Sprinkle over it half the grated Parmesan.
Put the lemon juice in a small skillet together with 1½ inches or more of water, and turn the heat on to medium. When the liquid comes to a simmer, adjust the heat to maintain it thus without letting it come to a fast boil. Break 1 egg into a saucer and slide it into the pan. Spoon a little of the simmering liquid over the egg as it cooks. When, in about 3 minutes, the egg white becomes set and turns a dull, flat color, but the yolk is still runny, retrieve the egg with a slotted spoon and slide it over the vegetables in the casserole. Repeat the procedure with the other 5 eggs, placing the eggs side by side.
Sprinkle salt and the remaining Parmesan cheese over the eggs. Cover the casserole and place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. After taking the dish out of the oven, uncover and let contents settle for several minutes before serving. When serving, make sure each guest gets some of the bread from the bottom of the dish and an egg.