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21 Mar 2014

Minestra Maritata - Italian Eastern Swiss Chard soup

Photograph Minestra Maritata by Alessio Fangano on 500px

The season of Swiss Chard is upon us. I love this vegetable but sometimes I find myself rather confused in deciding how to prepare it and so I end up sauteeing it with a little crushed tomatoes and garlic, as my mom does it.
I reckon the confusion arises from the contrast between the strong texture and the rather delicate aromas of this vegetable. The white rib of this leafy vegetable is quite sturdy and can withstand almost any kind of cooking method, the green part is instead more delicate even though always with some bite to it.
While I was preparing one of my cooking classes, I learned a way of preparing it typical of Northern Italy: the Minestra Maritata (Married Soup).
This dish is typically prepared for Easter and it represents an excellent way to use that stock you have lying around (probably from the Lesso/Pot au Feu you will serve as main course). The aromatic base of this soup speaks of its geographical origins since it consists of sweet leeks sweated and butter. A handful of rice helps giving this soup a delicate thickening and can make it count as the carb course of your meal.
The "married" bit comes toward the end of the preparation, when you further enrich the soup by whisking in a mixture of beaten eggs and grated Parmesan cheese (I add a little cream to it to create more tender curds).
You will need only the green part of the Swiss chard for this dish but I will soon publish a great way to use those stalks.

To further gild the lily, try grating a little fresh nutmeg over the serving bowls; even if not traditional, this variation is still in the regional flavor spectrum of Northern Italy.

Minestra Maritata

Ingredients (serve 5-6):

  • 20g butter
  • 50g leek, finely minced
  • 100g swiss-chard, just the green parts thinly shredded
  • 1 handful of rice
  • beef or vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon cream


In a soup-pot melt the butter over medium heat and let it cook until it will emanate a sweet smell of hazelnuts. At this point add the leeks and the swiss-chard to the butter and let wilt for a good 8-10 minutes stirring regularly. Add the rice to the vegetable followed by the beef broth.
Let the soup cook covered until the rice is tender, at this point taste it and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Before serving the soup, bring it back to a gentle simmer over medium heat while, in a little bowl, you whisk together the egg with the Parmesan and the cream.
When the soup will be gently boiling pour the egg mixture into it while stirring with a wooden spoon. Let the egg cook for 1-2 minutes and serve.

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