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The Irpinia soup, warming flavours from ancient times

Il territorio dell’Irpinia è rinomato per la coltura delle castagne e della nocciola. Source: Vitalia Zanda

Chestnuts and beans are the fundamental ingredients of the poor cuisine of the Campania region’s hinterland. A touch of mushrooms and bacon is enough to give life to this rich recipe by Italian chef Vitalia Zanda.

Irpinia is an ancient area in Italy that corresponds to the province of Avellino, in southern Campania region.

From the province of Avellino to Cairns, the Irpinia soup is one of the recipes that the Sardinian chef Vitalia Zanda brought with her down under.

Vitalia worked for two years in a small town in Irpinia, side by side with the president of the Irpinian Chefs Association.

I learned the Irpinia soup recipe from him. He passed on his passion for the territory and for other local recipes.

The recipe for the Irpinia soup with chestnuts, porcini mushrooms and beans dates back to the Middle Ages. Later the bacon was added to give it even more flavour.

Here's how to prepare it:

Irpinia soup

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 300g of chestnuts
  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • 50g of diced bacon
  • 2 handfuls of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 6 tbsp of EVOO
  • Parsley, rosemary and bay leaves


Boil the chestnuts, after having lightly cut the peel, in water with the bay leaf, rosemary and a pinch of salt. Cook for 40 minutes from the moment the water begins to boil.

Once ready, allow to cool and then peel them completely.

In a large pot, sauté the garlic, olive oil and bacon.

Soak the mushrooms in water, rinse, dry and cut into small pieces.

Add the beans to the pot and sauté for twenty minutes. Then add the chestnuts, mushrooms and finally, sprinkle with parsley.

The chef's advice

Serve with a sprig of fresh rosemary, toasted bread and a glass of Taurasi wine.

Listen to the podcast (only available in Italian) to learn how to prepare a summer version of the Irpinia soup:

La zuppa irpina, dall’antichità i sapori che scaldano
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