This is my comfort soup. I started making it in Italy during the first year of our marriage. It has evolved significantly since then – then, when I made do with bouillon cubes from the discount grocery and had no knowledge of how to make a good broth from scratch, but – on the other hand – when I had the luxury of the liquid sunshine from a lemon picked from the tree outside the kitchen door just before dinner.
It is only recently, though, that I have found The Noodle for this soup. I have tried tortellini, egg noodles, and shaped pasta, and it was never quite right. Never quite right – until I threw in half a package of the spaetzle, a chewy German egg noodle, that I’d picked up at Aldi. This was the answer – the chewiness that I’d loved in the tortellini, but none of the filling that had so unfortunately clashed in the past. The egginess of the egg noodle without the slipperiness that I just couldn’t quite embrace.
This soup is more than the sum of its parts, which is why I’ve struggled with a name for it. “Lemon spinach egg-drop noodle soup?” Well, yes, but not exactly. I don’t think I’d like Lemon Spinach Egg-Drop Noodle Soup – too lemony, spinach-y, egg-y, and slippery-noodle-y. This is none of those things . . . It’s just comfort in a bowl – perfect for fighting a cold or The Cold or both. Enjoy!
1 T. butter or olive oil or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken broth (I use homemade meat or bone broth)
1 tsp. dried thyme
8 oz. (1/2 package) Spaetzle
5 oz. frozen spinach
3 eggs, separated
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste – don’t be shy
coarsely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Sauté garlic in butter or olive oil in a soup pot until fragrant; do not let brown. Add chicken broth and thyme, bring to boil. If the broth has very little salt, add a bit of salt for the noodles to cook in – do not salt to taste at this point; the soup will get saltier as it cooks and the liquid reduces. Add spaetzle; maintain a low boil. When the noodles are nearly done, add the spinach, either still frozen or (to further reduce its goitrogenic properties) steamed separately; return to low boil.
While the spaetzle and spinach are cooking, separate the eggs. Beat the yolks in a bowl big enough to hold 2-3 more cups of liquid. When the noodles and spinach are just about done, pour three ladlefuls of soup, one at a time, into the yolks while whisking the yolks to keep the yolks from curdling.
Reduce the heat of the soup to a bare simmer and pour the yolk mixture in while stirring the soup. Drizzle the whites in while stirring or whisking the soup to create “feathers” of egg-white instead of big clumps.
Stir in lemon juice.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve topped with grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan.