Zuppa Imperiale, The Traditional Minestra from Bologna

Who loves soups?

When outside it’s cold, there’s nothing better than a steaming soup. And if you love Bolognese food, I hope you’ll love Zuppa Imperiale (Imperial Soup), a traditional and easy-to make Bologna’s dish.

Even if its name is zuppa (soup), this is an Italian minestra recipe or, better still, one of the queen among the traditional minestre. Yes, probably less known than tortellini but anyway delicious. And to make Zuppa Imperiale, unlike many other Bolognese first courses, it is not necessary to become a black belt of pasta dough rolled with rolling pin.

Zuppa Imperiale, The Traditional Minestra from Bologna

A dish with a history.

It is in fact a minestra, that in Italy is always served in broth, and you need just a handful of ingredients: eggs, butter, fresh and grated parmigiano reggiano, semolina. And a pinch of nutmeg, the most used spice in Bologna to flavor, for example, the broth of tortellini or the béchamel sauce of lasagne alla Bolognese or the filling of green tortelloni.

Zuppa imperiale is also a minestra with a history. We find this recipe in the most famous Italian cookbook (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, 1891) written by Pellegrino Artusi, writer and gastronomer who lived in Florence but was born in Emilia-Romagna. A man who knew Bolognese cuisine well.

Zuppa Imperiale is sometimes called Minestra Reale (Royal Soup) and probably it’s possible to uncover the origin of this name inside the recipe, in its rich ingredients as parmigiano and butter, one time available only on the rich people tables.

Zuppa ImperiaIe, the recipe.

It isn’t a filling pasta. Then, to make it, you don’t need a rolling pin and a large cutting board. You need only a bowl and a fork.

The main characteristic of this recipe is that before immersing the cubes in the boiling broth, you must bake them in the oven for a few minutes.

I think this is a perfect rich, hot winter dish. And if you spend a Christmas holiday in Bologna, you can easily find it on the festive table of the locals.

Moreover is a first dish perfect for all, vegetarians too. But in this case, remember to serve zuppa imperiale in a vegetable broth instead of one of meat, as usual.

After the recipe I’ll wait for you with some cooking chit-chat.

Happy Cooking, Monica

Zuppa Imperiale, The Traditional Minestra from Bologna

Food Tips

The dough can be baked a day in advance.

To make gluten-free zuppa imperiale, use a gluten-free semolina flour.

Little cubes of zuppa imperiale can be frozen. At the time of need must be put into the boiling broth still frozen.

Zuppa Imperiale Recipe

serves 4
rectangular baking tray 30x23cm

4 tablespoons of semolina flour
5 eggs, medium
80 g parmesan cheese, grated
60 g of butter + the one for buttering the baking tray
salt and nutmeg q.b.

1 l of capon or meat stock


Melt butter and let’s cool down. Set aside.

Butter a raised edge rectangular sheet, or cover with kitchen paper, and set aside.

Zuppa Imperiale, The Traditional Minestra from Bologna

In a mixing bowl, stir together eggs, butter, cheese, semolina, nutmeg and season with salt.

Spread paste into buttered pan and evens out the surface with the help of a spatula at a height of about 1 cm.



Zuppa Imperiale, The Traditional Minestra from Bologna

Bake in preheated oven (170C degrees) for about 15 minutes or until the edges and surface begin to be slightly golden. Take out the oven and let it cool.

Remove and flip out on to board to cool.

Then cut into small cubes of about 1/2 cm.


Bring capon or meat (or veggie) broth to boil and drop in squares. Boil 2 minutes and serve hot and with grated parmigiano aside.

Zuppa Imperiale, The Traditional Minestra from Bologna

Mini-me and The Imperial Soup

Imperial soup is a winter dish. It was one of the recipes that were prepared at home for Sunday lunch and the festive table. And although it may seem incredible to you, I didn’t particularly appreciate it when I was a child. It was one of my “no-no” at the table.
One of the ones I’m trying to correct.

I also talk about it in the post dedicated to the tiramisu tart and the word I chose for 2020: ahead.

Little by little I cook and re-taste all the exceptional dishes that, when I was a little girl, I ate only thanks to the patience of my parents. At home, the rule was that everything on the plate had to be finished. And now I can say thank you.

Zuppa imperiale, the traditional minestra recipe of Bologna


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