The last of our Christmas in Naples recipes brings us to the Neapolitan Chicken Soup for the Soul, Minestra Maritata or A’ Menesta Maretata. Made for Easter, Christmas and New Years, tradition said it was originally served on Santo Stefano (December 26th) to “clean out the pipes” if you will from the overindulgence of the holidays.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Minestra Maritata is not a Wedding Soup. Rather it takes its name from the marriage of meat and vegetables. A highly successful union that creates an explosion of flavor in your mouth. This is fairly old news, though not nearly as old as the soup I’m sure.
In fact, Minestra Maritata predates the introduction of the tomato to Campania near the end of the 18th century and pasta, which found its way onto the Neapolitan table at the end of the 17th century. Quickly becoming the staple of the Neapolitan diet, it gave rise to the moniker mangia maccheroni, maccaroni eaters. But before that, the Neapolitan diet was rich in vegetables and legumes and the Napoletani were known as mangia foglie, leaf eaters.
And a leafy soup this is. In this case, the leaves from broccoli stems, broccoli di foglie which is something quite unique to Campania. Purists like Giuseppe’s mother use broccoli di foglie and only broccoli di foglie (kale and broccoli rabe make good substitutes). In other recipes you might find greens such as escarole, chicory or cabbage along with onions, carrots and celery.
Add to that a hardy dose of meat and chunks of fresh Italian cheeses. Which ingredients you use is entirely up to you, le dosi degli ingredienti sono assolutamente libere.
3 bunches of broccoli di foglie or other greens
500 grams beef
500 grams pork
250 grams diced prosciutto crudo
100 grams Romano
100 grams Parmigiano
Remove the leaves from the stems
Put the leaves into a sink of cold water and clean them well
Generously sprinkle baking soda into the water and let the leaves soak
Bring a large stock pot 3/4 full of salted water to a boil over high heat
Add the meat and prosciutto and turn the heat down to medium, cooking the meat at a slow rolling boil
Fill another large pot 1/2 full and add a pinch of salt
Bring to a boil over high heat
While the water is coming to a boil drain the greens in a colander and squeeze out the excess water with your hands
Add the greens to the boiling water and cook down until they are tender, about 1/2 an hour
Drain the greens and add them to the broth
Cut chunks of the Romano and Parmigiano into the broth
Add salt and stir through
Cook over medium heat at a slow rolling boil about 2 hours
More about Christmas in Naples