Minestra Maritata – The Impossible Soup
Minestra Maritata literally translates as “Married Soup,” and it is called “Italian Wedding Soup” on many Internet sites, and even in some cookbooks.
I hope by now everyone knows the true origin of the name for this soup. For those who don’t, I will say that the soup is made by combining together a very strong meat broth with vegetables. All the ingredients “si sposano,” they blend or “marry” well together, hence the name “Minestra Maritata.” Somebody not familiar with the Italian language, I guess, decided to translate it as “Wedding Soup,” creating the misunderstanding. Many thought that Italians serve this soup at weddings. They don’t.
I call this dish “The Impossible Soup.” The original recipes found in old Neapolitan cookbooks have a list of ingredients that are impossible to find nowadays, especially if you live far from the region (fat and cholesterol aside). Prosciutto bone, prosciutto rind, lard, pancetta (Italian bacon), and Neapolitan sausage all go into the broth making, as well as an array of cabbages and vegetables only found locally.
If we want to make this dish, we have no other choice than to make it with what’s available. We don’t think this is against the principles of the recipe. In fact, this preparation belongs to the “poor man’s” traditional cooking, the types of dishes where everything edible you can put your hands on ends up in the boiling pot. So here is our simplified (and lighter) version. The result is an excellent one-course meal.
Minestra Maritata (personal recipe)
For the broth:
2 lb (900 g) beef
1/2 lb (200 g) Italian pancetta (substitute with un-smoked bacon)
1 lb (450 g) pork meat
3 – 4 pork ribs
beef bones for broth
1 carrot, peeled
1 medium onion, peeled
1 small bunch of Italian parsley
2 celery sticks
4 bay leaves
2 small tomatoes, halved
For the soup:
1 head green cabbage, cut in large shreds
1 head escarole, chopped in large pieces
1 lb (400 g) swiss chard
1 small bunch of herbs (basil and thyme)
1 small red chili pepper
4 oz (120 g) freshly grated parmigiano cheese
Place all the meats in a large empty pot.
Add carrot, onion, parsley, celery, bay leaves, and tomatoes.
Fill the pot with water, cover, and bring to a boil.
When the meat boils, skim away the foam that forms on the surface using a slotted spoon. Add salt and cook until the meat is tender.
Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside. Discard the boiled vegetables.
Filter the broth through a fine strainer to clarify it and remove all the small particles. Let the broth cool to room temperature.
When the broth is cold, the fat will solidify on the surface. Remove most of the fat from the surface of the broth with a slotted spoon. Set the broth aside.
Chop the meat in small dice.
Bring a pot half full of water to a boil. Drop the cabbage, escarole, Swiss chard, and herbs in the water.
Blanche the vegetables shortly in the boiling water. Drain well, squeezing out as much water as possible and chop them.
Bring the broth to a boil in a pot. Transfer the vegetables to the pot. Add the red pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes until tender
Add the meat back into the soup.
The meat can be also served separately on the side.
Serve the soup hot, topped with grated parmigiano cheese.