Malta is located in the middle of the Mediterranean and has a very long rich culture. When it comes to Maltese cooking, it’s rustic with influences from the Spanish, Italian, British, French and African cultures. Given it’s an island, fish is often the star of the show, but vegetables, beef, chicken and even rabbit make special appearances at the Maltese table.
In my mother’s kitchen, there’s a combination of her Maltese heritage combined with an American touch. According to her grandchildren, she makes the BEST hamburgers! I like to explore different cuisines in my own kitchen, but there’s a certain pride and comfort I feel when I can replicate a traditional Maltese dish.
Soup was a regular staple when my mom was growing up in Malta. During and immediately following WWII, soup was a way to feed a large family with something nutritious and often intended to be the main dish. One of my mom’s favorites and one that she continues to cook regularly is Minestra, Maltese vegetable soup. There are different variations depending on what was available. Usually, my Nonna would add pork belly or pigs feet, but we use sausage. You can also add pasta!
This is a great time of year to have this hearty and flavorful soup on a cold day.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 Italian style sausage links, each cut in 4-6 pieces, crosswise
2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
2 cups cabbage, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3/4 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup potato, chopped
3 cups of kale, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can (15oz) of beans (cannellini, or fava), rinsed and drained
1/3 cup of barley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 cups water or more as needed
In a large saucepan over medium, heat oil and brown the sausage, about 3-5 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients to saucepan. The water should just cover the vegetables, so adjust as needed.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium/low and simmer until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
When serving, add Parmesan cheese to taste.
If using pasta, cook your favorite small pasta according to your liking and add to the soup bowl when serving.