Escarole, a leafy green vegetable in the chicory family, is packed full of flavor, vitamins and minerals and flavonoids, the consumption of which may help prevent cancer.
This week’s recipe for Zuppa Ala Sante incorporates mustard greens (due to the current unavailability of escarole) in a delicious, warm, and comforting soup. It was sent to CCSA as part of a series of emails from our resident chef, Dr. Linda Doody. She began sharing her extensive collection of favorite recipes and testing of new recipes with friends, family, and the CCSA team as a means of maintaining connections during the COVID-19 pandemic and it has since become a company tradition.
“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
–Ludwig van Beethoven
Zuppa Alla Santé (Health Soup With Meatballs And Greens)
Adapted from Italian Slow and Savory, Joyce Goldstein (2004)
- ¼ pound each ground veal and ground pork (ground beef, chicken, turkey, or sausage can be substituted)
- 2–3 Tbsp grated yellow onion
- ½ cup dried breadcrumbs (panko works great)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp grated pecorino cheese (pecorino is actually a family of Italian sheep’s milk cheeses from different regions, and includes pecorino romano, pecorino toscano, pecorino sardo, and pecorino siciliano. Pecorino romano (from Sardinia, Umbria or Lazio) is the most well-known of these in the US)
- 2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- ½ cup chopped celery (carrots and fennel can be added and/or substituted)
- 2 quarts poultry stock, beef stock, or a combination (in Abruzzo, it is poultry stock; in Campania and Apulia, it is meat stock)
- 4 cups chopped, peeled plum tomatoes (canned are fine, but do not add the juice)
- 1½ cups cooked acino di pepe or orzo (italini or tubetti can be substituted, but more stock will need to be added to the soup)
- 2 pounds chopped escarole, tough stems discarded (escarole [broad-leaved endive, Bavarian endive, Batavian endive] is a leafy green from the chicory family. It has wide, green leaves with slightly jagged, crumpled edges, and a slightly bitter taste. Kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens [as in the pictured soup], curly endive (friseé), Savoy cabbage, or spinach can be substituted)
- 3 eggs lightly beaten with ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (as an alternative, 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs and ½ cup diced scamorza or caciovallo cheese, plus 1 cup croutons [optional]. Scamorza is a Southern Italian, stretched curd, cow’s milk cheese that is semi-soft and chewy like mozzarella; caciovallo is a Southern Italian, stretched curd, cow’s or sheep’s milk cheese with a taste similar to provolone)
- 3 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Combine all of the ingredients, including a good sprinkling of salt and pepper, in a bowl and mix well. Fry a small nugget, taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Form the mixture into hazelnut-sized balls (~½ inch in diameter) and set aside. (Note: The meatballs can be poached in the soup or fried in oil to develop flavor before adding to the soup.)
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery and onion (and/or carrot or fennel) and sauté until softened. Add the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil; reduce heat to very low and simmer for about 30 minutes to develop flavor. Add the greens and meatballs (if not fried) and continue to simmer until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the cooked pasta (and meatballs if fried) to the soup and simmer for 5 more minutes.
- If using beaten eggs and grated Parmesan cheese, stir the mixture into the soup until the eggs are just set into long strands, ladle into bowls, and serve at once. Alternatively, ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with hard-cooked eggs, diced scamorza or caciovallo cheese, and croutons (if desired), and serve at once.
This is essentially a recipe for Italian wedding soup (but with tomatoes added), which is actually a misnomer; it is not customarily served at weddings in Italy. The name comes from the Italian phrase minestra maritata, which means “married soup,” apparently referring to the marriage of ingredients—leafy greens and inexpensive meat.