Happy New Year 2018! The Lista family had a wonderful time celebrating the Holidays and now we are all hunkered down weathering the sub-zero temperatures and battling the ever present “white stuff.” Of course, while waiting for the inevitable break in this cold snap, I am looking for ways to warm us up with great winter recipes.
One of my absolute favorite cold weather recipes is a soup that many people today would call “Italian Wedding Soup” but when I was growing up we simply referred to it as Escarole Soup… or more commonly just “scarola”.
This soup is another familiar recipe from the Campania region of Italy, and was a Lista family favorite frequently made by my Grandma, my Aunts, and my Dad. I can remember watching my Dad make “scarola” and being fascinated by the way the greens would be so voluminous until they hit the simmering broth, and then they would wilt down to almost nothing… and I absolutely loved that this soup was made with those tiny hand-rolled meatballs! I also recall, occasionally, Grandma would beat an egg with a handful of grated cheese and drizzle it into the soup at the very end, stirring it gently to form thin shreds of egg throughout — just amazing!
For me, Escarole Soup is one of those quirky dishes that doesn’t follow the culinary norm. But the combination of a light chicken broth with hearty meatballs really works — as does the use of the delicate pasta (acini de pepe) in contrast to the other sturdier ingredients — and the tender greens that counterbalance the firm bite of the meatballs. It’s actually this contrast and balance that gave the soup its misunderstood moniker of “wedding soup.” Contrary to popular belief this soup is not served at Italian weddings nor is its sole purpose to give the new couple stamina for their nuptial bliss.
In truth, the name “wedding soup” is more of a mistranslation. In Italian, the soup was originally minestra maritata (married soup) which is a reference to the flavor produced when the broth and greens are combined or “married” together.
I have heard that in some Italian-American families, this wonderful dish is also called “healing soup” because it is often made when someone is sick, knowing that the nutrient rich broth and veggies will provide comfort and nourishment to speed up recovery… one friend told me she always prays for the sick while rolling the meatballs as an added benefit.
Lista Family Escarole Soup
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8 servings
– For the Meatballs –
1 pound Lean Ground Beef
1/4 cup Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs
1 large Egg
1 clove Garlic – finely minced
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley Leaves – Chopped
1/4 cup Grated Pecorino Romano
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
– For the Soup –
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 medium Yellow Onion – diced
1 stalk Celery – diced
2 large Carrots – peeled and diced
8 cups Chicken Broth (homemade preferred)
1 cup Acini di Pepe or Ditalini Pasta
1 large bunch Escarole – rinsed and coarsely chopped
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano for serving
Crushed Red Pepper for serving (optional)
1. Place all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Form the meat mixture into ½ inch meatballs, and place them on a platter or cookie sheet. Wrap them with plastic wrap and refrigerate them until ready to use.
2. In a 4 quart soup pot, heat the oil over med-high heat and cook the onions and celery until just tender about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, turn to high and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and keep soup simmering.
3. Gently drop the meatballs into the soup and let cook for 5 minutes. Add the pasta and carrots and let everything simmer for about 10 more minutes.
4. Add the escarole and simmer for another 5 minutes until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a generous sprinkle of grated Pecorino Romano cheese (and some crushed red pepper if desired).
There you have it, Lista Family Escarole Soup. What a beautiful combination of flavors and ingredients to warm body and soul (and maybe to cure what ails you!) Serve the soup with some fresh Italian bread or even better toasted Garlic Bread. I hope you try this soup as a quick family meal or share it with friends at your next gathering.
Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”