The Santè Soup is a typical Molise dish based on broth, stale bread, meatballs and stringy cheese, usually prepared during the Christmas holidays. Legend has it that the recipe was born at the end of the fourteenth century in Agnone in homage to Queen Giovanna II; other hypotheses see the dish as a contamination from Tharida, a soup symbol of the Islamic tradition. Today, depending on the area of Molise in which it is served, the Zuppa alla Santè has small variations. Here we present the recipe of the Bojano version!
According to the legend, the Santè Soup was conceived at the end of the fourteenth century in Agnone by a cook who wanted to pay homage to the Queen of Naples Giovanna II, that often visited the town to entertain love affairs. With just a few ingredients available, the cook was able to create an invigorating and delicious meal based on chicken broth, beef meatballs, cubes of stale bread dipped in egg and toasted, fried cheese balls and stringy caciocavallo. Even today, this basic version of the recipe remains unchanged in the Alto Molise area.
Another theory links the birth of the Santè soup to the contacts that southern Italy had with Muslims in medieval times. The Tharida, a symbolic dish of Islamic culture consisting of shredded bread dipped in meat broth, in fact has many similarities with the local soup, although it lacks the cheese inside. The hypothesis of contamination is reinforced by the fact that the Tharida would have taken root in various cultures of the Mediterranean basin, since it became the dish of the holidays also for Persians and Jews.
Whatever its origin, the Santè Soup is now present on the tables of all Molisans during the Christmas holidays or on major events, for example weddings. The basic recipe has undergone many variations and additions depending on the area or even just the family in which it is made. However, the common trait always remains the enhancement of its three poor ingredients: bread, cheese and meat broth. On this occasion we present the recipe for Santè Soup of Bojano of Mrs. Lucia Iannetta, characteristic for the presence of boiled escarole, a typical Molise winter vegetable.
7 heads of smooth escarole
700 gr of ground beef
5 hard-boiled eggs
150 gr of Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Boil the escarole for a few minutes so that it remains to the bite and in the meantime make meatballs with the beef, then fry them in extra virgin olive oil. With the stale bread, create small croutons by passing them in the oven with a drizzle of oil or frying them in a pan. Once these preparations are finished, strain the previously completed chicken broth and bring it back to the boil. Then add the boiled escarole and after five minutes the meatballs, the chopped hard-boiled eggs and the Parmesan, boiling again for five more minutes. Once the stove is turned off, add the scamorza into pieces and the croutons and… serve!
Silvia Di Menna
Santè Soup of Bojano prepared by Mrs. Lucia Iannetta (photo: L. Iannetta)