The Maremma, the coastal region of Tuscany that extends from Livorno to the border between Tuscany and Lazio, is famous for its livestock, its cowboys, and Acquacotta, literally cooked water. The dish is generally served as a one course meal, and in the past was eaten in the field by shepherds and stockmen. As is the case with any regional dish, there are as many versions as there are cooks.

Set a heavy bottomed pan on the fire. When it's hot, add the oil and the onion mixture; season the mixture with salt and the chili pepper. When the onions have turned translucent, add the greens. Cover and cook over low heat till the greens have wilted, then add the tomatoes and the other vegetables, if you're including them. Simmer for about twenty minutes, then add the boiling water. Check the seasoning, and simmer for another twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs and cheese together, adding salt if necessary.

Line the bottoms of your soup bowls with thinly sliced toasted bread and spoon the beaten egg mixture over the bread. Bring the soup to the table, stir it well, and ladle it into the bowls.

Serves six.

© Kyle Phillips, 1996

Kyle Phillips's translation of Pellegrino Artusi's La Scienza in Cucina e L'Arte di Mangiar Bene, the first really successful Italian cookbook aimed at non-professionals (it came out in 1891, and the 10th edition, from 1910, is still selling briskly), has just come out from Random House. It is entitled The Art of Eating Well.