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Italian in English: Minestra Maritata, or Wedding Soup

By February 14, 2007

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One of the first recipes I was asked for when I began doing this site in 1997 was Italian Wedding Soup, the meatball-and-greens soup that is one of the standard courses in Italian-American wedding banquets.

I initially drew a blank, because I've never encountered anything remotely like Wedding Soup in Italy -- Not at my wedding, nor at friends' weddings, nor day-to-day. And then, one day, I was reading CÓrola Francesconis's masterful La Cucina Napoletana, and it all became clear:

Minestra Maritata is a traditional Neapolitan greens and meat soup, which owes its name to the fact that the ingredients go well together -- si maritano bene, i.e. they are well married. It's also a very old dish; some food historians say it derives from the Spanish olla podrida (a liquid stew with many meats, link in Spanish) while others say it derives from Roman traditions. The Italian recipes for Minestra Maritata I have seen call for a variety of meats, which are boiled, shredded, and returned to the pot with the greens. The American versions of the recipe often call for meatballs.

Some recipes, first in Italian:
Angie, who runs Supereva's Italian cooking site, gives a little history, and brisk instructions; it's a recipe for an experienced cook.

Anna Amalia, who gives three versions -- one in Neapolitan, one in Italian, and one in English -- points out that Minestra Maritata is no longer that popular in Naples, because of the long list of ingredients called for, and because it is heavy by modern standards.

In English:
Arlene Burnett, writing for the Kitchen Mailbox, presents a recipe that's "a labor of love," requiring several days, and also discusses variations on the ingredients that go into the soup. Quite interesting.

Deborah Mele, of Italian Food Forever, notes that she never encountered Minestra Maritata when living in Italy, and gives a thoughtful version with meatballs.

Soup Song presents a soup with greens and meatballs they say is for Italian weddings, and lifts my comment about the etymology of the recipe name, under the heading One Reader Objects. There's also a chicken variation.

Robin Garr, of The Wine Lover's Page, presents a recipe that's quick to do, and adds some streaked out egg, borrowed from Stracciatella, the Roman equivalent of egg drop soup -- a nice touch.

Like last time, I want to stress that I am not judging the recipes; they all look good to me. Just looking at variations, which are the spice of life.


February 21, 2007 at 7:13 am
(1) Linda Lorenzo says:

My paternal grandmother [from Cainello] made a soup we children called “holiday soup” because it was served only on special occasions. It put the “wedding soup” that other kids’ had on holidays to shame. A large turine was layered with shreds of prosciutto from the bone, little meatballs, small rounds of sausage and shredded chicken, blanched escarole and spincah, pieces of mozzarella, caciocavallo, grated parmeggiano Reggiano, rough chopped hard boiled eggs, and topped off with cooked broken bits of pasta. Then the very hot broth was poured over. I can still picture my papa serving it. He would dip the ladle deep to scoop a bit of everything into each plate. It was an amazing soup. I have never read of anything like it.

March 2, 2007 at 1:13 pm
(2) italianfood says:

Sorry to be so slow in getting back to you. This sounds very good, and is also a classic example of immigrant cooking — most of the people who came from Italy were fleeing poverty so fierce it was simply called miseria — misery.

When things began to look up for them in the New World, they could afford things they could never have bought in Italy, and rich dishes like this were a natural result.

March 17, 2007 at 9:40 am
(3) Robert M. Abruzzi says:

Kyle, Italian Wedding Soup is all over the place in the great Mahoning Valley– Trumbull & Mahoning Counties in northeast Ohio. You can find it on almost every menu in independent Italian-American Restaurants. Here it’s basically chicken soup with greens, noodles, and either small meatballs or meat croutons. One of our local adages is if you know what Italian Wedding soup is, you’re from the Mahoning Valley. Our 2 largest cities are Warren and Youngstown. (I recently retired from operating our family restaurant, Abruzzi’s Cafe 422!)

October 17, 2008 at 5:37 pm
(4) Patricia Foskie says:

Hi. I’m from Warren. Now in NC. The 422 back in the 70′s used to make the best linguine with clams that I have ever had!

April 13, 2009 at 12:36 am
(5) Vincenzo says:

Minestra Mairtata, or Wedding Soup, was also called Holiday Soup in my Italian-American family. Polpettini (small meatballs), scarola (escarole), and a rich homemade chicken (and pork products) stock were blended with a touch of lemon juice, and impossibly light egg, romano cheese and flour dumplings, similar to passatelli.

Orzo, ditalini, any kind of pasta is vastly inferior to the light flavorful egg-cheese dumplings on which I was raised.

If you want the best wedding soup, learn how to make passatelli, and take it from there. And remember, the best, most delicious dishes are often the most simplistic.

September 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm
(6) Leona Chianello says:

I live in Noblesville, Indiana, but I am originally from Campbell, Ohio (Leona Carrier)…and learned how to make Italian Wedding Soup from my in-laws, Sam and Doris Chianello. My father-in- law called the little dough dumplings we make from scratch by an Italian name. I know I’m not spelling it correctly but it was phonetically pronounced chitadel. Can someone send me the correct spelling?
I am going to teach my “Hoosier” girlfriends how to make Italian Wedding Soup for the holidays. I want the authentic wording. Thanks.

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