More Stew Review

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

We’re back, exploring more in the “Stew Review”

Italian Wedding Stew

You’ll find this delectable rich soup if you frequent traditional Italian restaurants in the states. The term “wedding soup” is an Italian American creation and a mistranslation of the Italian language minestra maritata, which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together thus-greens and meat: married. Some form of minestra maritata was long popular in Toledo, Spain before pasta became affordable. The modern wedding soup is lighter than the old Spanish form, which contained more meats than just the meatballs of modern Italian-American versions. The traditional version also employed the pasta of the region.

I’ve traded the pasta for the denser and more nutritious whole grain farro which has a deep nutty richness. In the following recipe the turkey meatballs are yummy with Parmesan added, and local bison meat is a superb exchange for the poultry for health’s sake.

Escarole and Farro Stew with Meatballs

Serves 4 as a main-course

Pass extra Parmesan cheese for sprinkling over the soup.

For the meatballs 

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 12 ounces lean ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


For the soup

  • 8 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped escarole (about 1/2 medium head)
  • 3/4 cup raw farro, cooked


To make the meatballs 

Whisk egg and 2 tablespoons water in medium bowl to blend. Mix in breadcrumbs; let stand 5 minutes. Add turkey, Parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper; gently stir to blend. Using wet hands, shape turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on baking sheet; cover and chill 30 minutes.

 To Make the soup

Bring 8 cups chicken broth to boil in large pot. Add carrots; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered 8 minutes. Add turkey meatballs and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in chopped escarole, cooked farro and simmer until turkey meatballs and escarole are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm over medium heat, thinning with more broth if desired.)

Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Inspired by Bon Appetit, February 2003


Slow-Cooker Stout & Chicken Stew

8 servings, about 1 1/3 cups each

Eating Well Magazine  Jan/Feb 2012 showcased this warm and cozy recipe making use of the slow cooker. In my efficiency challenge, I changed a bit to cut out a step or two.

Tweaking: While the floured and sauteed chicken thighs serve to thicken the stew, I cut out the extra step (and extra calories) of breading and moved directly to the saute using the drippings from the bacon. The drippings did add more flavor to the chicken and omitted the 4 teaspoons of olive oil.

Chicken thighs can take plenty of cooking without getting tough or drying out, which makes them perfect for the slow cooker. Here we braise them in Guinness stout along with hearty vegetables, with just the right amount of bacon for added savoriness.


  • 3 pieces bacon, chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • 1 pound whole baby carrots or large carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 2/3 cups Guinness beer or other stout (14-ounce can)
  • 1 8-ounce package cremini or button mushrooms, halved if large
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp and golden. Remove bacon and place in the slow cooker; leaving drippings in the pan.  Add half the chicken and cook until well browned, 2 to 4 minutes per side; transfer to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining chicken thighs. Arrange the chicken in an even layer in the slow cooker.

Saute the carrots and onions in the saute pan and brown lightly then sprinkle the 1/2 cup flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add stout and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme, spreading in an even layer over the chicken. Pour broth over the top.

Cover and cook until the chicken is falling-apart tender, 4 hours on High or 7 to 8 hours on Low.

Stir in peas, cover and cook until  heated through, 5 to 10 minutes more. Adjust seasonings.

 Tips and Notes

Make Ahead Tip: Trim chicken, chop bacon; prep onion and garlic; defrost peas. Refrigerate in separate containers. Equipment: 5- to 6-quart slow cooker

Eating Well: