Istrian Maneštra

A sort of pork and beans, this quintessential Istrian soup, is a meal in itself. Made in every Istrian restaurant and home, everyone has their own family recipe which varies according to what’s in season.

Any restaurant’s recipes are a well-guarded secret. This isn’t quite Katica’s maneštra recipe but it’s very close. She says you must come and try her maneštra in Konoba Kaštel yourself, and see if you can spot the difference.

This recipe makes enough for 8 – 10 people.



  • 200 g white or yellow beans
  • 2 large onions (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 1 pršut bone *
  • 1 large potato (cut into small squares)
  • 2 carrots (cut into small chunks)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper



  1. Soak the beans overnight and then bring to the boil in the same water.
  2. Boil the beans for a couple of minutes and then drain
  3. Place the beans in a fresh pan with all the other ingredients and pour the olive oil on top
  4. Add water  until everything is well covered and bring to the boil.
  5. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours
  6. Remove the pršut bone
  7. Trim off any available meat and add back to the soup
  8. Serve with crusty home-made bread


Seasonal variants

In the Spring and early Summer, for a hint of aniseed,  Katica adds some chopped fennel to the soup just before serving. About 2 tbsps for a pot this size.

In the late Summer and Autumn, it’s the kernels scraped from a corn cob. Add the kernels about 15 minutes before the soup’s ready. This turns Maneštra into Bobici. (A small tin of corn can be used instead of the fresh corn kernels. Just cook them for less time)


* Obviously, a pršut bone isn’t an easily sourced item outside Croatia. If you want to try this at home, use c. 200 g smoked spare ribs, bacon hunk or ham bone (if you can find it). If you’re using a bacon hunk, I’d cut it into chunks and fry before using, to increase the flavour.

First published September 2011



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