marisa mariella

easy mouthwatering recipes that unite your family and friends

Brodo di Cardone (Cardoon Soup)

Think of celery on steroids! That’s what cardoons resemble! This winter vegetable which ranges in colour from white to pale green has edible ribbed stalks with an inedible flowering head. Their mild artichoke flavour is incredibly delicious! A simple cooking process ensures a tender and delicious vegetable. Cut off the base and all leaves, taking care to not get pricked by the spiny edges. The stalks are then cut into pieces with lengths depending on their intended recipe. Placing them in water with lemon juice or vinegar will prevent any discolouration while you work through the stalks. It’s important to boil the pieces for about 20 minutes or until tender. Low in calorie and high in vitamins and minerals, cardoons complement many dishes or can be the featured ingredient as in this recipe, the cardoon soup. This recipe is from my mother-in-law who traditionally makes this soup to celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the day after Christmas. With its richly flavoured stock made from poultry and veal, the ratio of cardoon pieces to mini veal meatballs is always a topic of debate at the dinner table. There are never enough meatballs! The only other essential ingredient is cheese. Nuggets of mozzarella cheese and a heavy sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano add a gooeyness that only real cheese lovers appreciate. If you’re lucky enough to find fresh cardoons at your local grocery store, consider making large batches of soup to freeze. That way, you can enjoy this uncommon vegetable throughout the year.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Make Meatballs 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course dinner, Lunch, Soup
Cuisine Italian


  • 2 cardoon stalks about 1 kg or 2 pounds each
  • 12 cups rich homemade broth from poultry and veal well seasoned
  • 2 pounds homemade veal mini meatballs
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 400 g fresh mozzarella sliced thinly or cubed


  • Clean and trim cardoon stalks by cutting off spiny edges, all leaves, and any discoloured sections. A paring knife or vegetable peeler works well.
  • Carefully peel away thin layer from both outer and inner surfaces. This can be time-consuming but will ensure a tender vegetable. (Think of the stringiness in celery. This stringiness must be removed.)
  • Place in large bowl with lemon juice to keep from discolouration.
  • Separate outer stalks from inner ones. Cut large outer stalks in half, lengthwise. Keep these separate.
  • Cut all stalks into bite-sized pieces, about 1” long.
  • Place large pot of water to boil. Then salt water generously. Add outer stalk pieces and cook about 10 minutes. Then add inner stalk pieces to pot, without removing other ones. Continue boiling together until they tender, about another 10 to 15 minutes.
  • While pieces are boiling, prepare meatballs. Place another pot of water to boil to cook meatballs, removing any scum.
  • While meatballs are cooking, place broth to simmer. When meatballs are almost cooked, lift from water and finish cooking in soup broth. (Optional - You can strain meatball water and reduce on high heat before adding to broth.)
  • Add cardoon pieces to broth with meatballs and simmer together for about 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings but remember that cheese will add saltiness.
  • To serve, ladle hot soup in bowls, top with few mozzarella pieces and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve immediately.


If you like, you can add a little diced carrot and tomato pieces to the broth for colour. 
Keyword Cardoon, soup