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Recipes for Italian escarole

Italian wedding soup, Utica greens, and fettucine with escarole and olives.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

NOW SERVING Minestra Maritata, or Italian Wedding Soup, is a “marriage” of rich chicken broth, small meatballs, and escarole.

A type of endive and member of the chicory family, escarole is a sturdy, leafy green that is common in traditional Italian cooking. Prized for its grassy, gently bitter flavor, escarole is delicious raw, quickly wilted, or braised to supple tenderness. Because the bitter edge stands up to cooking, its flavor is always vibrant – making it especially welcome in winter cooking. Pay particular attention to washing escarole, as the leaves can be sandy.

MINESTRA MARITATA

(Italian Wedding Soup)

Makes about 3 quarts

 

Continue reading below

When I grate the last bit of cheese off a chunk of Parmesan, I keep the rind in the freezer to flavor broths. You can buy rinds at Whole Foods.

 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

4 anchovy fillets, minced

2½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth

2 2-inch pieces Parmesan rind

2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts trimmed and torn up

1/3 cup half-and-half

6 ounces fresh sweet Italian pork sausage, crumbled

6 ounces ground beef

½ cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 egg, beaten

Salt and pepper

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup small pasta, such as orzo or ditalini

1 medium head escarole (about 1 pound), coarsely chopped

 

In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the anchovies and cook, stirring occasionally, until partially melted into the oil, about 4 minutes. Add broth and Parmesan rinds to pot, adjust heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Adjust heat to low, cover pot, and simmer gently until broth is infused, about 1 hour. Remove rinds and keep broth warm on low.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, soak the bread in the half-and-half for 5 minutes. Add the sausage, ground beef, Parmesan, oregano, parsley, egg, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper and mix well with a fork or your hands. In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, cook a tiny bit of the mixture and taste it for seasoning; add salt and pepper, if necessary. Using wet hands, roll scant teaspoons of the mixture into ¾-inch balls (you should have about 80). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Add the remaining oil to the saucepan and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, celery, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds, then scrape mixture into the Dutch oven with the broth. Bring broth to a simmer over medium heat.

Meanwhile, fill another large saucepan with 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add half of the meatballs and poach until just cooked through and floating, about 4½ minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to the Dutch oven with the broth, then repeat poaching process with remaining meatballs (discard poaching liquid). Add the pasta to the Dutch oven, stir to mix, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes, adding the escarole about halfway through. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

  

UTICA GREENS

Serves 6

 

Canned bread crumbs will disappoint here – make sure to use fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ pound sweet or hot capicola, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup finely chopped jarred hot cherry peppers

2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 large or 3 medium heads escarole (about 2½ pounds), coarsely chopped

Salt and black pepper

1½ cups toasted bread crumbs, plus extra for sprinkling

½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

 

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the capicola and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the onion and continue cooking, stirring often, until onion is soft and capicola is crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cherry peppers and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add broth, bring it to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes to reduce it slightly. Add the escarole by large handfuls, stirring until it wilts enough to add more. Add ¾ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the escarole is collapsed and very tender, about 8 minutes. Off-heat, add 1 cup bread crumbs, pecorino, and ¾ teaspoon black pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and black pepper, if necessary, and serve sprinkled with bread crumbs. 

FETTUCCINE WITH ESCAROLE AND OLIVES

Serves 4

 

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

Salt and black pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

4 anchovy fillets, minced

¾ cup dry white wine

¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 medium heads escarole (about 2 pounds), coarsely chopped

1 pound fettuccine

¾ cup pitted Kalamata or oil-cured olives, quartered

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra to pass at table

3 tablespoons chopped

fresh parsley

 

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and broth, adjust the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, to reduce slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the escarole by large handfuls and cook until it wilts enough to add more. Add ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot over high heat, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta; add it, the olives, the Parmesan, and black pepper to taste to the escarole mixture and cook, tossing to combine, about 1½ minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and black pepper, if necessary. Transfer to a large serving bowl, drizzle with remaining olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, and serve at once, passing extra Parmesan at the table.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.
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