Working ahead: Although the soup must be cooked at the last moment, it takes no more than 10 minutes and little effort. You can prepare all the ingredients hours ahead; cover and refrigerate them.
Cooking the soup with eggs: Have soup dishes, and a tureen if desired, warming in a low oven. Bring the broth to a slow bubble in a 3-quart saucepan. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the spices and cheese. Stir the mixture into the bubbling broth with a fork making lacy threads. Taste the soup for seasoning. Drop in the spinach and prosciutto, and immediately pour the soup into the tureen or ladle it into soup dishes, and serve while the spinach is still bright green.
Cooking the soup without eggs: Have soup dishes, and a tureen if desired, warming in a low oven. Bring the broth to a slow bubble in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the spices to the broth, and cook for a few moments. Taste for seasoning. Then stir in the spinach, cheese, and prosciutto, and immediately serve in the soup dishes or tureen, while the spinach is still bright green.
From The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (Morrow, 1992).
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.