Not the Italian wedding soup of meatballs, greens and pasta that’s popular in the U.S., the name of the dish on which this recipe is based is Minestra Maritata, which translates from the Italian as “married soup.” Although the two do share similarities.
As in Naples, the meats in this recipe are bone-in cuts of beef and pork that give the broth richness and body. But for easier eating, after cooking shred the meat and discard the bones. Pancetta also simmers in the mix along with a piece of Parmesan rind, each lending even more savoriness to the broth. Although at the end, we did NOT discard the pieces of pancetta–what a waste!
The “marriage” of cooked greens and broth is what gives the dish its name. The vegetables are directly simmered in the broth. Rabe offers an assertive bitterness that nicely balances the richness of the soup; escarole (our choice) is milder and cooks down to a silky, supple texture. Warm, crusty toasted garlic bread is the perfect accompaniment.
Don’t bother with precision when prepping the onion, carrots and celery. The aromatics are simmered in the broth for flavor, but later are scooped out and discarded. If using escarole, be sure to wash it thoroughly as the frilly leaves tend to trap a good amount of grit.
- 8 oz. pancetta, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 medium celery stalk, roughly chopped
- 4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
- ½-¾ tsp. red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 4 bay leaves
- 2½-1b. rack pork baby back ribs, cut into 3 sections between the ribs
- 1-lb. bone-in beef shank (1 to 1½ inches thick)
- 1 2-inch piece Parmesan cheese rind, plus finely grated Parmesan, to serve
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and roughly chopped, or 1 large head escarole, chopped, or a combination
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh basil, chopped
- In a large Dutch oven, combine the pancetta and oil. Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase to medium, stir in the onion, carrots and celery, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until the tomato paste begins to stick to the pot and brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 10 cups water (or a mixture of broth and water) and the bay, then bring to a boil over medium-high, scraping up any browned bits.
- Add the ribs, beef shank and Parmesan rind. Return to a simmer, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted between the pork ribs and into the meat on the shank meets no resistance, about 2 hours. Remove from the heat.
- Using tongs, transfer the ribs and shank to a large bowl; set aside to cool. Meanwhile, using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the solids from the broth (keeping the larger chunks of pancetta, if desired). Tilt the pan to pool the liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to remove and discard as much fat as possible from the surface of the liquid.
- When the meats are cool enough to handle, shred the beef into bite-size pieces, discarding the fat, bone and gristle. Using a paring knife, cut the pork ribs between the bones to separate into individual ribs. Remove the meat from the bones and shred into bite-size pieces; discard the fat, bones and gristle. Set both meats aside.
- Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high. Add the rabe (or escarole) to the pot and cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the shredded meats and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
- Off heat, stir in the basil, then taste and season with salt and black pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side.
Original recipe by Diane Unger for Milk Street