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Uova alla contadina is the oddest little recipe I may ever have come across – but a good one. While it translates as farm-style eggs, a more descriptive name would be eggs poached in molten mozzarella.

The recipe is from Le Ricette della mia Cucina Romana, one of a series of small cookbooks on the regions of Italy that I’ve acquired on trips there. I’ve found all the books useful and reliable, but this dish just didn’t seem Roman to me. However, checking in my other Roman cookbooks, I found one had essentially the same recipe made with provatura, which is a traditional cheese of Lazio, Rome’s province, and is similar to mozzarella but a bit stronger. Then, looking under the name uova alla provatura, I found many recipes for it on the Web. I’m sure this is real home and country cooking: I’ve never seen it on a restaurant menu anywhere.

It’s a simple enough preparation. For a small lunch for two it took only 2 eggs, 3½ ounces of mozzarella, 3 tablespoons of butter, and 1 ounce of freshly grated parmigiano.

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And simple cooking, too. The first step was to melt the butter in a skillet.
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Next, add the mozzarella, diced, and stir constantly to melt it too.
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As soon as the combination is fully liquid, scrape two shallow depressions in the cheese puddle and slip in the eggs.
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Sprinkle the grated parmigiano on and around the egg whites, along with salt and pepper.
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All this bubbled gently along over low heat while I kept nudging the edges of the mixture to be sure the cheese wasn’t sticking. In fact, enough of the melted butter coated the bottom of the pan to keep everything moving freely. When the whites had firmed up and become opaque, I slid half of the pan contents onto each of two plates and served them.
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While that lunch was small in quantity, it was rich and filling. All those butterfats! The texture of the egg white and cheese blend seemed a little strange – and you had to eat quickly before the mozzarella began to resolidify – but the yolks made a perfect sauce.

We could see that, especially if you had a farm with chickens and cows (or better, water buffalo!), this would be a very handy dish for a quick bite to eat. It would also be fine served with or on a thick slice of country bread. I’d love to try the recipe with provatura, but I can’t remember ever seeing that cheese in this country. The inventiveness of Italian cooks with few and simple ingredients is just amazing.

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