abruzzo christmas soup

Christmas thistle soup

Christmas festivities in Abruzzo mean gargantuan feasts. However, there are some dishes that are meant to give you a break from the heavy meals. Thistle, or cardoon soup (zuppa di cardo) is one of them, although, as calorie count goes, it is still quite rich. In Abruzzo, thistle stalks are called “Christmas greens” and the soup is traditionally made for pranzo natalizio, on December 25.

Several Italian regions have a version of this soup. In Molise, it is made with in a capon broth. In Piedmont butter is added and in Apulia – tomatoes.

If you are wondering what cardoon is imagine a thistle-like plant with impressive large leaves that remind of an artichoke but with smaller flower buds. It is the stems that are cleaned, chopped and cooked in soups and pies. Small green grocers’ as well as bigger supermarkets sell pre-packed chopped cardoon. Although the real Italian mammas prefer buying fresh bunches of leaves and cleaning them at home. Many families add a personal touch to the recipe: the soup is served with toasted croutons, a sprinkle or nutmeg, squeeze of lemon juice or small pieces of omelette (frittata). Here is the basic recipe of Christmas thistle soup from Abruzzo most commonly.

traditional soup abruzzo


500g cleaned and chopped cardoon

200g premium veal mince

2 egg

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

50g breadcrumbs

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


Put the cardoon in a pot with 2 litres of water and bring it to boil. In the meantime thoroughly mix the veal with one egg and breadcrumbs, make small meatballs (about 1cm in diameter). Brown them in a frying pan in olive oil, add garlic. Put the meatballs and garlic in the soup and cook for 30-35 minutes. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl, slowly pour it into the pot while swirling the soup with a spoon to get small strands of egg. Cook it for another minute. Cool it slightly. Season and serve with parsley, cheese and olive oil.

If you prefer the cardoon to be soft rather than slightly crunchy, add 15 minutes to cooking time.

For more traditional recipes see Recipes from Abruzzo e-book.

Buon appetito e Buon Natale!

Fiadoni abruzzesi recipe

The recipe for fiadoni from Abruzzo originally came from the aristocratic kitchens of Ferrara (some historians say it might have been the Medici court’s cooks who invented it) in the 1500s. Back then, these delicious cheese puffs were made with saffron harvested in the Navelli plains. As centuries passed, the precious spice was eliminated from the recipe and adapted to more humble kitchens. Today, to my endless delight, fiadoni can be found in many bakeries throughout the year. Here is an easy fiadoni abruzzesi recipe.

fiadoni abruzzo
photo by annalachiccosa/Instagram

Makes 20


300g plain flour

3 eggs, lightly beaten + 1 egg for brushing

100ml olive oil

100ml dry white wine (Trebbiano or Pecorino if you want to keep the recipe 100% Abruzzese)

a splash of milk


175g pecorino cheese (pecorino from Abruzzo and pecorino Romano are both good), grated

150g parmesan or rigatino cheese, grated

2 eggs, lightly beaten

4g instant dried yeast (optional)

a pinch of black pepper

photo by fabrizia.m/Instagram

Whisk two of the eggs with the oil and wine. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the egg mixture. Bring the mixture together using a fork or spoon, then knead the dough with your hands for two minutes until smooth. Cover in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

To make the filling, combine the cheeses, eggs, yeast and black pepper in a bowl. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

fiadoni abruzzo
photo by domenicacooks/Instagram

Preheat the oven to 200C. Divide the dough into two-three parts and roll it into sheets 2mm thick working one piece at a time. Cut out circles about 10cm in diameter (you can use a cookie cutter). Make sure the individual circles do not bounce back, if they do, roll them again. Place one tablespoon of filling in each circle, then fold over and pinch the dough with your fingers to seal, so they look like large ravioli. Whisk the remaining egg with the milk and lightly brush the fiadoni. Make a small incision in the top to let the cheese filling ooze out in the oven.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until pale golden on top. Fiadoni are best eaten when warm, but will keep in a paper bag or airtight container for several days.