Christmas is the perfect time for Bolognese cuisine. Cold outside? What's better than a classic but a hidden soup, much less known than the famous tortellini. I usually show it during our food tour in Bologna because it's really unusual. It's called Zuppa Imperiale (Imperial soup). In the bakeries showcases you can mistake it for a cake, cut into small cubes. But you're not that far from the truth.
Zuppa Imperiale recipe handwritten in my version of Pellegrino Artusi's book (around 1930) .
The origins of Zuppa Imperiale
The origin of this recipe is not well known as Torta degli Addobbi. Its name refers to a noble and upper class soup, maybe because of some of the used ingredients (like butter or Parmesan cheese) that were really expensive in the past.
Pellegrino Artusi, a monk and cook from Emilia Romagna, talks about Zuppa Imperiale in his book The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well published in 1891. Recipe number 15 in soup chapter is "Minestra composta con il semolino". He doesn't refer specifically to Imperial Soup but the recipe is almost the same.
Download for free the pdf of this unique cook book (in Italian).
Zuppa Imperiale cubes
1 liter and a half of meat broth
8 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons of semolina
50 grams of butter
1 pinch of nutmeg
Dough can be baked in the oven a day in advance, or can be placed in special bags for food and then frozen. When you want to cook it, be put straight into the boiling broth still frozen.
Zuppa Imperiale ready for the spoon
Where to eat Zuppa Imperiale
It's hard to find Zuppa Imperiale in a restaurants, even the most classic ones. Here are a few suggestions to eat it (only in autumn/winter).
1. Trattoria Di Via Serra, Via Luigi Serra, 9/b, 40129 Bologna BO
2. Osteria Bottega, Via Santa Caterina, 51, 40123 Bologna BO
3. Ristorante Cesarina, Via Santo Stefano, 19/B, 40125 Bologna BO
Otherwise you can find it in almost all the bakeries of the city centre and prepare it at home with a warm hot capon broth.
Have you tried it? Do you like it? Let me know your opinion about this unique hidden soup.
[Photo credits Stefania Ricci Frabattista, Teresa De Masi]