Sunday, January 13, 2008

Italian wedding soup- minestra maritata

I have been most remiss in posting recipes. I can't even remember when I posted the last one.

Anyway. I was at the market this morning and saw that Campbell's has a canned "Italian Wedding Soup." So it has become quite mainstream. Except that if you ask an Italian about a "zuppa italiana delle nozze" (the literal translation) they will say "cosa?". And I myself was perplexed when I came to Boston from Padua eleven years ago and heard of this strangely-named dish.

As I cleverly suspected, this is an Italian-American recipe from Southern Italy, specifically, Naples and its surroundings. There are many Italian-Americans from the region (Campania) in Boston, including the mayor himself, the Eternal Tom Menino.

This soup is actually an adaptation of the Italian original called minestra maritata (wedded soup). But wedded only in the sense that the meat and greens, its basic ingredients, go well together. I've also heard local Italian-Americans call it menesta, which is simply the dialect for minestra. It is also known as maretata or mmaretata. In the South of Italy, it was served at festivities (Christmas and Easter), but not weddings, to my knowledge. It has also historically had the same kind of therapeutic reputation that chicken soup has for Jews.

I will now leave you, for the recipe itself (with helpful photos), in the capable hands of Anna Maria Volpi. She presents a version that is fairly authentic, realizing that a complete reproduction of the real thing is unlikely due to difficulty in obtaining ingredients. Check out the rest of her site, too, for other recipes and fun food features.