Beyond the Pasta
Basil and Italian Flat-leaf Parsley seedlings getting the first set of mature leaves. In the background: Chives, Fennel, assorted Peppers, San Marzano Tomatoes, and Zinnias.

Spring is here, the seedlings are up, and the promise of a summer of delicious eating is in the air. One of my favorite Italian springtime dishes is “Minestra di Primavera” ~ “Spring Soup.” It features lettuce as the main ingredient. Now wait, before you imagine the ubiquitous “Wedge Salad” Iceberg jammed into a bowl, this recipe features Romaine and your choice of a spicy green such as Escarole, Chicory, or Arugula. For most of us Americans, we only consider lettuces for salads, but the Italians use lettuces as a delicately delectable main ingredient in soup. This soup takes advantage of the Spring garden’s early harvest of lettuces, which would never survive the unrelenting heat and humidity of summer.

If you grow your own lettuces, pick the Romaine when the leaves are young and tender. If gardening isn’t your thing, no worries, simply find the Romaine and Escarole heads in your grocer’s produce section.

To make it even easier on yourself without giving up on a sense of freshness, pick up a package of Spring Lettuce Mix from your grocer’s produce isle. Go for one of the more exotic mixes featuring any combination of baby greens: Spinach, Radish, Beet, Endive, Sweet Pea, Swiss Chard, Romaine, or kale. The possibilities are endless. Simply remember: this is not a Titanic soup — so avoid the Iceberg at all cost! 

Buon Appetito~


*Click here for the recipe and cooking video!

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.