Amanda & Merrill

Egg Barley Stracciatella

February  9, 2010

(photo by Merrill, not Sarah!)

- Merrill

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A few weeks ago, my fiancé and I went to visit his mother in the same town outside of Paterson, New Jersey, where he grew up. Because he knows I live for these things, we swung by the small, family-owned butcher shop where he used to buy fruit-flavored German taffy growing up. Once I saw the words "homemade bologna" plastered above the door, nothing was going to keep me from going inside.

While small and somewhat sparsely stocked, the Haledon Pork Store -- as any good Sopranos fan would expect -- carries the requisite range of homemade sausages (both fresh and dried), locally made marinara and other Italian specialties. However, along the back wall, among the bags of imported dried pasta and boxed tiramisu mix, I came across a few ingredients I'd never seen before -- including a bag of something that looked a little like yellow Grape Nuts. The package included the words "egg barley" and explained that this bag of shriveled little nuggets had originated in Hungary.

We walked out with a dried landjaeger sausage and a small packet of some sort of smoked salami for my fiancé, and 1/4 pound of the homemade bologna and a packet of the yellow Grape Nuts for me. I did some research when I got home and discovered that the egg barley, also know as tarhonya, is a popular Eastern European egg pasta. It's typically sautéed in butter and then braised in a little bit of broth, but it can also just be boiled and added to soup. Which is just what I decided to do with it. In honor of the Haledon Pork Store's Italian owners, I thought I'd boil up some of my newly acquired egg barley and incorporate it into a simple version of straciatella, or Italian egg drop soup, which my mother used to make a lot while I was growing up. It's a savory, comforting soup that pleases kids and adults alike, and the addition of the egg pasta transforms it into something hearty enough to serve as a meal. If your local pork store doesn't carry egg barley, this soup would be almost as good with orzo or ditalini or any other small dried pasta.

Egg Barley Stracciatella

Serves 4

  • 5 1/2 cups homemade or very good quality chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup egg barley, orzo or other small dried pasta
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring 5 cups of the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, reserving the remaining 1/2 cup in a medium bowl.

2. Add the egg barley or orzo, or whatever you're using, to the boiling broth and lower the heat so that it simmers steadily. Cook the pasta until just al dente (the egg barley should take 12 to 14 minutes; refer to the package for cooking instructions for other pastas).

3. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the remaining stock, eggs, parmesan, parsley, nutmeg, salt to taste and a few generous grinds of pepper. When the pasta is just cooked, slowly pour the egg mixture into the boiling soup, whisking constantly. The soup will now look kind of creamy, and it will stop simmering temporarily. Keep whisking for a minute or two, until the soup returns to a simmer and the egg begins to coagulate in shaggy little clumps. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, and then serve immediately with some more grated parmesan and black pepper on the side.


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Amarie0110 March 24, 2012
My German Grandmother used to make these with the yolks that came from the hens when they processed (read butchered) chickens. She would roll the dough between her palms onto a flour sack and let them dry. She would make soup with chicken broth, all spice, bay leaves, celery, carrots and was the best soup ever!!!! We called it "Grandma Soup" (and still do).
She also made home made cottage cheese (dry curd), When it was done she would add green onions, cream, salt and pepper to make the best cottage cheese ever or mix it with eggs and other ingredients that I cannot recall and "cook" it in a cast iron frying pan until it thickened. She would then pour it into a cake pan and let it cool off. It became a very mild soft cheese that she would cut in cubes; we called that Grandma Cheese.
Sherlie February 15, 2010
We make a similar kind of noodle that we add to potato soup made out of egg and flour that when mixed just to the right consistency make small pea size pebbles that are cooked in the broth or water until tender and then add back the cooked potatoes along with cream or milk. We call them "rivelles"(sp). I dont know the origin of these or where the name came from but we have done them all my life and my grandmother used to make them too. Potato soup is the only thing we put them in. Amazing that there is something else out there like the egg barley. Spatzle is very similar but more of a batter and I knew about it. People do look at one strange when you talk about "rivelles" so I tend not to mention them. LOL
djgibboni February 14, 2010
@Susan Sobol -- "Stracciare" means to shred or tear, so "stracciata" would mean shredded or torn, so from that you get "stracciatella." Interestingly, Italians use that word, too, for vanilla ice cream with bits of chocolate in it.
Susan A. February 10, 2010
I was introduced to this soup in college by a beloved English professor who would frequently invite my friend, Paul, and I to her home. Throughout the autumn months, we would rake leaves in her yard and she and her husband would go off for a good part of the day to ride horses. When they returned, she would treat us to a lovely meal. I remember that when she made "Stracciatella", she told me the name meant "little rags". Her version of the soup contained a raw egg -- like egg drop soup. And - the beaten egg in the broth does give the appearance of "little rags". As I don't speak Italian, I can't comment on the meaning of "Stracciatella". My children, who are now in their late teens and early twenties, adore this soup and probably consider it one of the major comfort foods in my repetoire.
Allison C. February 9, 2010
Reminds me of Greek "Trahanas" which is also a pasta of pebble (or Grape Nuts!) shape. And of course the name seems similar as well, though I have no idea if truly related linguistically. I have a package of it sitting on my counter right now. It's made with cracked wheat and fermented (sour) milk. You've just inspired me to cook some up, especially good for the blizzard we're expecting. Thanks for another great post.
Lizthechef February 9, 2010
Being half Hungarian but living in San Diego, I'm hoping some readers might know a good online source for Hungarian goodies such as the egg barley Merrill discovered - thanks!
Berna February 9, 2010
I have passed this store many times (most recently to go to Ben's Auto Body :-( , have wanted to go in and now have good reason. Your soup sounds wonderful, wish I could get there before tomorrow's snow and cook up a batch.
Merrill S. February 9, 2010
You should definitely make a trip at some point when it's not snowing!
amysarah February 9, 2010
My Hungarian Jewish grandma used to make farfel a lot, sauteed with onions and no doubt chicken fat (this was pre-fat police era.) Delicious. I also recall her making it into a kugel (pudding) with eggs - not sweet, but again with onions and the ubiquitous paprika sprinkled over the top - a feature of virtually everything she cooked. Thanks for reminding me.
Merrill S. February 9, 2010
You're welcome. Those two dishes sound heavenly.
lastnightsdinner February 9, 2010
I haven't made stracciatella in far too long - I think a trip to Federal Hill is in order :)
Merrill S. February 9, 2010
I think so!
Savorykitchen February 9, 2010
I love how different cultures have similar foods with just so lightly different names. I'm familiar with a different pasta used in Greek cooking called Trahana (sounds a lot like Tarhonya, don't it?). It's a pasta made with milk and/or yogurt. Usually cooked in the same way: braised in a little liquid. Small world!
Merrill S. February 9, 2010
How interesting! I'll keep an eye out.
Annelle February 9, 2010
I want to go to that STORE!! Haldedon Pork.
It makes me so hungry to read your recipe for Stracciatella. What a wonderful soup for this weather!
Merrill S. February 9, 2010
Thanks! It was a pretty soul-satisfying dinner, I'll admit. And the shop is definitely worth a visit if you're ever in the area.
debbiek February 9, 2010
Mmm, love egg barley--it's a Jewish thing, too (we called it farfel growing up). I make a pilaf with sauteed onions & mushrooms, a bit of chicken broth. Dee-lish.
melissav February 9, 2010
Yep, my grandma still makes farfel (exactly as you described) for holiday meals. It is a Jewish comfort food right up there with Matzoh Ball Soup and Kasha Varnishkes. Now, I'm hungry . . .
Merrill S. February 9, 2010
Yes, I forgot to include that! Thanks for reminding me.
BonEllen February 14, 2010
Yep, we did the Jewish version of egg barley with onions & mushrooms for our holiday meals too. True old world comfort food.
djgibboni February 9, 2010
Looks like a tiny, dried spaetzle.
Merrill S. February 9, 2010
And it tastes like it too.