Signature Dish: Salvatore De Meo’s zavardella

Salvatore De Meo (EPP, IT) shares his recipe for zavardella, a hearty yet humble vegetable soup rich in taste and tradition
Illustration by Shirin Begmyradova

By Salvatore De Meo

Salvatore De Meo (EPP, IT) is the Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs of the European Parliament

21 Feb 2023

The busy agenda of a MEP often results in quick lunches and breakfasts or elaborate business dinners. For this reason, whenever I am in Fondi, my hometown, and I have time to treat myself to a peaceful lunch or dinner, I prefer simple local dishes that are perfect for a light-hearted and convivial meal spent in the company of my loved ones.

My town, located in the Lazio region, has always been a land of farmers. That is why our traditional dishes are simple but nutritious and tasty at the same time.

In the past, farmers relied on local natural resources, prioritising the various fruits and vegetables grown nearby. Still today, thanks to Fondi’s wholesale market, much of the produce consumed by locals represents the identity of our territory.

Among the many delicious dishes from Fondi, I want to share a recipe for zavardella, a soup of vegetables and greens locally grown, with the produce cooked separately and then mixed together with toasted bread.

Zavardella is a triumph of flavours. More than that, this dish can bring together the whole family and satisfy the palates of both adults and children.

With this recipe for zavardella, you can enjoy a piece of Fondi’s heritage and history in your kitchen.


Serves 4

  • 1 spoonful of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • Chilli pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Oregano (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 10g datterini tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
  • 60g dried cannellini beans
  • 60g dried chickpeas
  • 50g eggplant
  • 40g courgettes
  • 30g yellow peppers
  • 30g red peppers
  • 40g potatoes
  • 20g pumpkin (or squash)
  • 20g champignon mushrooms
  • 10g green beans
  • 40g chard (can be replaced with broccoli or chicory)
  • 1 artichoke
  • 10g cauliflower
  • 20g stale bread


  • Boil the chickpeas and cannellini beans in separate pots until soft, which can take a few hours, depending on the freshness of your beans. If you suspect your beans are old, you can soak them overnight.
  • Cut the chard, green beans and cauliflower into small pieces. Put them in separate pots with a lot of salted water brought to a boil and cook them until they are soft, each according to its timing. When each element is finished cooking, drain the water and set aside (each ingredient will need to be set aside once cooked).
  • Clean the artichoke, leaving only the heart. In a frying pan, fry the clove of garlic in the olive oil and then add the cleaned artichoke heart. Cook over a low heat for 30 minutes (or until the artichoke heart has softened), adding parsley and chilli pepper flakes at the end for flavour.
  • Cut the mushrooms into small pieces, put them in a pot of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and then sauté them over medium heat in a pan with garlic, oil, chilli pepper flakes and tomatoes until the mushrooms are lightly browned.
  • Cut the peppers, courgettes, aubergines and potatoes into small pieces and cook them in separate frying pans with oil, garlic and chilli pepper flakes over medium heat and respecting each vegetable’s own cooking time; it is important to check that they all have a soft texture and are browned but not burnt.
  • Cut the pumpkin into small pieces and sprinkle it with flour, then put it in a pan with oil and cook over medium heat until soft and golden.
  • Cube the stale bread and bake it in the oven until crispy.
  • Once all the ingredients have been prepared, mix everything together in a large pot, adding the toasted bread last. It should have a soup-like consistency.


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