If you love Italian food, you may have seen “stracciatella” on menus and in cookbooks. But what does stracciatella mean? The first thing you need to know is that this isn’t one dish but three rather different ones: Stracciatella is an ice cream (gelato) flavor, an egg-drop soup, and a soft cheese. 

Confused? We’ve got you covered. 

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Stracciatella gelato is just one kind of stracciatella!

What Is Stracciatella?

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What is stracciatella soup? It contains shreds of flavored egg mixture.

A better question might actually be, what isn’t stracciatella!? The name can refer to a broth-type soup containing shredded up pieces of egg; a creamy vanilla ice cream with shredded splinters of chocolate; or a buffalo cheese made using a stretching and shredding technique. 

Noticing a theme? Perhaps you’re wondering: What does stracciatella mean, literally? In the Italian language, the word stracciatella comes from the verb strattore, meaning to stretch, so it literally means “rag” or “little shred”. Although the soup, the ice cream, and the cheese all taste completely different and don’t even belong to the same food group, they do have one thing in common: They involve some kind of shredding.

You may also be wondering how to pronounce stracciatella. It’s something like “stra-cha-TELL-a”, with the double C forming a “ch” sound. Listen to this clip to hear how to pronounce stracciatella correctly.

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History of the Dish

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Stracciatella cheese can be used as a topping for spaghetti.

The soup, ice cream, and cheese versions of stracciatella all have different histories.

What is stracciatella soup? It’s especially popular around Rome, and the Roman version is called stracciatella alla Romana. It’s traditionally eaten at the start of Easter lunch, and different regional variations contain different herbs and flavorings. The earliest references to a dish like stracciatella (going by the name zanzarelli) are from the 15th century.

Stracciatella ice cream, on the other hand, is much more recent in origin. The way the soup is made—by dropping egg into broth—inspired the process of dropping hot chocolate into cold ice cream. It was invented by the Ristorante La Marianna in the Bergamo region of northern Italy in the early 1960s. Nowadays, it’s one of the most popular gelato flavors in Italy.

Stracciatella di bufala, the cheese, originates in the Apulia region of southern Italy. It’s made from buffalo milk and contains shreds of stretched, white curd cheese. It’s thought to have first been made in the 19th century and was invented as a way of using up the leftover curds from mozzarella production. 

Different Types of Stracciatella

ice cream
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Stracciatella gelato is flecked with chocolate shards.

Stracciatella soup typically contains beaten eggs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon zest, semolina, and a meat-based broth. Sometimes marjoram or parsley are used for garnishing and flavoring, too.

Stracciatella ice cream is made by pouring (or, rather, drizzling) hot melted chocolate into churning vanilla ice cream. The chocolate hardens and then cracks and splinters upon contact with the cold ice cream. Stracciatella ice cream is a bit like chocolate-chip ice cream, but the chocolate is finer. It traditionally uses milk chocolate, but dark chocolate works as well.

Stracciatella cheese takes the fat-rich part of the curd that’s leftover from making mozzarella and mixes it with salt and cream. It’s smooth and rich and can be used in many ways, including on pizza, as a breakfast spread on bread, and with salad.

Stracciatella Recipes

Some ingredients used to make stracciatella ice cream.
  • Stracciatella Soup: This stracciatella soup recipe uses spinach, which is a common variation in the U.S.
  • Stracciatella Ice Cream: While traditional stracciatella ice cream is made by stirring melted chocolate into frozen ice cream, it may be easier to melt, harden, and then crumble the chocolate first, as in this recipe. An ice cream maker is a useful piece of kitchen equipment.
  • Stracciatella Cheese: To make high-quality stracciatella cheese with this recipe, use the best milk you have available and purified, non-chlorinated water.

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Written by:

Elen Turner