(Minestra Maritata) Italian Wedding Soup Recipe

Italian wedding soup recipe

​The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 65 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1222 Calories
95g Fat
22g Carbs
67g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 1222
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 95g 122%
Saturated Fat 35g 173%
Cholesterol 187mg 62%
Sodium 3478mg 151%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 67g
Vitamin C 14mg 69%
Calcium 282mg 22%
Iron 6mg 32%
Potassium 1362mg 29%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This soup has grown extremely popular outside of Italy, but you might be surprised to learn that, while it often appears as part of a traditional Italian Easter, Christmas or San Silvestro (December 26) feast. It has nothing to do with Italian weddings and never has.

The confusion stems from the fact that the common name used in English is a bit of a mistranslation of the Italian name for this soup, a traditional dish originating in Naples made with an assortment of dark-green, somewhat bitter vegetables (which could include any combination of: chicory, escarole, an ancient Neapolitan curly kale called torzella, Savoy cabbage, puntarelle, borage, etc.), meat (traditionally any combination of boiled pork and/or beef, guanciale, pork ribs, ham hocks, lard, and/or sausage) and a rich meat broth.

Basically, like many Italian recipes, it was a peasant dish, made with whatever leftover bits of meat one might have and plenty of local and wild greens. 

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes

  • 6 cups homemade beef broth, or chicken broth

  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half

  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch dice

  • 1 stalk celery, diced

  • 4 sweet Italian sausages, casing removed and discarded and sausage broken into small, 1-inch pieces

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and roughly chopped

  • 1 head escarole, or chicory, washed and roughly chopped

  • 1/2 head savoy cabbage, washed and roughly chopped

  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Italian soup
    ​The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic 
  2. In a large, deep stockpot, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat until the garlic is just fragrant and very lightly colored, about 1 minute. Add the crushed red pepper and simmer for about 30 seconds. 

    Heat oil in pot
    ​The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic
  3. Add the broth, onion, carrot, celery and sausage pieces, cover, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. (If you happen to have any leftover Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds, these would be a great addition to enrich your broth! Throw them in together with the onion, carrot, and celery.)

    Add broth and onion
    ​The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic
  4. Meanwhile, blanch the chopped greens in abundant salted boiling water, 1 to 2 minutes, then drain well. This eliminates the excess bitterness.

    Blanch chopped greens
    ​The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic
  5. Remove the onion, carrot, and celery from the broth and discard (discard any cheese rinds at this point also, if you're using them). Transfer the blanched greens into the broth and let simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until the greens are tender and the broth is rich and savory.

    Remove the onion, celery
    ​The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic
  6. Serve with freshly grated cheese sprinkled on top and slices of grilled or toasted crusty bread. A white wine, such as a Fiano or Greco di Tufo, would be a good pairing.

    Italian wedding soup
    ​The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic

Additional Information:

The name minestra maritata actually means "married soup," rather than "wedding soup," and it refers to the "marriage" of flavors in this hearty, savory soup, which was originally intended to be a one-course meal. 

The Americanized (or Canadian) version is usually with small meatballs instead of the long-cooked meats, and often with fewer greens than the traditional Italian version, which is heavier on the vegetables, does not contain meatballs, and might have only a few pieces of meat for a large pot or soup, or even no pieces of meat at all. Versions made outside of Italy also often add rice or small pasta, though those do not appear in most traditional Italian recipes. Instead of using 5-6 kinds of vegetable and wild herbs, we'll use just 3, and instead of making a meat broth that simmers for hours, we'll start from canned broth, amping up its flavor by simmering it with a few aromatics and some pieces of Italian sausage, which stand in for both the traditional several types of meat, charcuterie, sausage and lard as well as the small meatballs of the Italian-American version. 

There are, of course, endless variations on the recipe, but here I've provided one that is closer to an authentic Italian version, omitting, however, ingredients that would be difficult to find outside of Italy and simplifying and streamlining it so that it can be made very quickly, rather than over the course of two days, as traditionally done. 

You can use whatever hearty, dark greens are in season and readily available (dandelion greens, collards, dinosaur/lacinato/Tuscan kale, curly endive [a.k.a. frisée], Swiss chard, curly kale, or beet greens come to mind as non-traditional ingredients that would nonetheless work wonderfully here!), but try to use a mixture of at least 2 kinds. 

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