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Food Travel: Soppa tal-Armla (Widow’s Soup)


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Wilma Napier



Welcome to the world of Soppa tal-Armla, also known as Widow Soup. This hearty and flavorful dish has a rich history and is a beloved staple in Maltese cuisine. With its unique blend of ingredients and delicious taste, Soppa tal-Armla is sure to tantalize your taste buds and warm your soul.


In Malta, Soppa tal-Armla holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. It represents the essence of traditional Maltese cooking, showcasing the island’s rich culinary heritage. This soup is not only a delicious meal, but it also tells a story of resilience and endurance.


The name “Widow Soup” originates from a fascinating tale of women coming together to support one another during difficult times. In the past, Maltese fishermen would often venture out to sea, facing the dangers of the harsh Mediterranean waters. Sadly, many of them lost their lives, leaving behind grieving widows.


During those challenging times, the widow community would gather and share their meager resources to create a nourishing soup that could sustain them. Thus, Soppa tal-Armla became a symbol of solidarity and hope. It represented the strength of women supporting each other and their determination to overcome adversity.


Today, Soppa tal-Armla has evolved into a well-loved dish that showcases the flavors of Malta. It has become a must-try for anyone visiting the island and wanting to experience the true taste of Maltese cuisine.


In the following sections, we will take a closer look at the history, ingredients, preparation, variations, and best practices for serving and enjoying Soppa tal-Armla. Get ready to embark on a culinary journey that will leave you craving for more of this comforting and delicious soup.


History of Soppa tal-Armla

The origins of Soppa tal-Armla can be traced back to the early days of Malta’s history. It is believed to have been influenced by the culinary traditions brought to the island by various civilizations and cultures that have inhabited Malta throughout the centuries.


One theory suggests that Soppa tal-Armla was inspired by the Arab influence on Maltese cuisine. During the Arab rule in Malta, which lasted for around two centuries, the Arabs introduced a variety of herbs, spices, and cooking techniques to the island. This influence can still be seen in the flavors and ingredients used in Soppa tal-Armla.


Another theory points to the influence of Italian cuisine on the development of Soppa tal-Armla. Italy’s close proximity to Malta led to a significant exchange of culinary traditions. Italian ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, and pasta made their way into Maltese cooking, and these flavors can be found in the soup.


Regardless of its exact origins, Soppa tal-Armla has become an intrinsic part of Maltese culture. It has been passed down through generations, with each family adding its own unique twist to the recipe. The soup is often prepared during special occasions and family gatherings, where it serves as a symbol of tradition and togetherness.


Soppa tal-Armla also has a practical aspect to its history. In the past, when resources were scarce and poverty was prevalent, the soup was a cost-effective way to feed large families. It made use of simple and readily available ingredients, such as vegetables, grains, and legumes.


Over time, the soup evolved to incorporate the indigenous ingredients of Malta. Local produce, including broad beans, pumpkin, and local herbs, began to feature prominently in the dish, giving it a distinct Maltese flavor.


Today, Soppa tal-Armla continues to be a popular and cherished dish in Malta. It is a testament to the island’s rich culinary heritage and the resilience of its people. The soup not only provides sustenance but also serves as a reminder of the cultural and historical significance of food in Maltese society.


Ingredients for Widow Soup

Soppa tal-Armla, or Widow Soup, is a flavorful combination of ingredients that come together to create a hearty and nourishing dish. The soup typically includes a variety of vegetables, grains, legumes, and herbs. Here are the essential ingredients you’ll need to prepare this traditional Maltese delicacy:

  1. Vegetables:
    • Onion: Provides a savory base for the soup.
    • Carrots: Adds sweetness and depth to the flavors.
    • Celery: Adds a subtle herbal note to the soup.
    • Potatoes: Provides heartiness and acts as a natural thickener.
    • Broad beans: A traditional ingredient that adds texture and flavor.
    • Pumpkin: Gives a slightly sweet and creamy element to the soup.
  2. Grains and Legumes:
    • Pearl barley: Adds a chewy texture and helps thicken the soup.
    • Green lentils: Adds protein and a nutty flavor.
  3. Herbs and Spices:
    • Parsley: Adds freshness and brightness to the soup.
    • Mint: Provides a hint of minty flavor that complements the other ingredients.
    • Basil: Adds an aromatic touch to enhance the flavors.
    • Bay leaves: Imparts a subtle earthy flavor to the soup.
    • Garlic: Enhances the overall savory profile of the dish.
  4. Tomato Paste: Gives the soup a rich and slightly tangy flavor.
  5. Vegetable Stock: Serves as the base of the soup and enhances its overall taste.
  6. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Used for sautéing the vegetables and adding a hint of richness to the soup.
  7. Salt and Pepper: To season the soup to taste.

While these are the classic ingredients for Soppa tal-Armla, feel free to add your own twist to the recipe. You may choose to include other vegetables, such as zucchini or bell peppers, or experiment with different herbs and spices to suit your taste preferences.


Now that you have a list of the key ingredients, let’s move on to the next section and learn how to prepare this comforting and flavorful Widow Soup.


Preparation of Widow Soup

Making Soppa tal-Armla, or Widow Soup, requires a few simple steps, but the end result is a wholesome and delicious dish that will warm your heart. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to prepare this traditional Maltese soup:

  1. Start by preparing the vegetables. Peel and chop the onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Remove the outer skin from the broad beans and cube the pumpkin.
  2. In a large pot, heat some extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until they become translucent and aromatic.
  3. Add the diced carrots and celery to the pot. Stir well and let them cook for a few minutes until they start to soften.
  4. Add the cubed potatoes, broad beans, and pumpkin to the pot. Give everything a good stir to combine the flavors.
  5. Add the pearl barley and green lentils to the pot. These grains will bring a wonderful texture to the soup.
  6. Pour in the vegetable stock to cover all the ingredients in the pot. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  7. Add the tomato paste, crushed garlic, bay leaves, and a handful of chopped herbs such as parsley, mint, and basil. These ingredients will infuse the soup with delicious flavors.
  8. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Remember to start with a small amount and adjust as needed.
  9. Cover the pot and let the soup simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have melded together.
  10. Once the soup is cooked, remove the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  11. Serve the Soppa tal-Armla hot, garnished with fresh herbs. This comforting soup is best enjoyed with a slice of crusty bread.

Now that you know how to prepare Widow Soup, it’s time to explore some variations and creative twists you can add to this traditional Maltese dish. Let’s dive into the next section to discover the exciting possibilities!


Variations of Widow Soup

While the classic recipe for Soppa tal-Armla is undeniably delicious, there are also various creative and flavorful variations you can explore to tailor the soup to your taste preferences. Here are a few exciting ways you can modify and add your own twist to this traditional Maltese dish:


1. Seafood Twist: For a taste of the sea, consider adding seafood to your Widow Soup. Add chunks of fresh fish, shrimp, or mussels during the last few minutes of cooking to infuse the soup with briny and savory flavors.


2. Meaty Delight: If you prefer a heartier version of the soup, try incorporating cooked and cubed chicken or beef. Sauté the meat with the vegetables for added depth and richness.


3. Spicy Kick: Add a touch of spice to your Widow Soup by including chili flakes, paprika, or a dash of hot sauce. This will give your soup an extra zing and create a warming, satisfying heat.


4. Creamy Comfort: If you enjoy a creamy texture, blend a portion of the cooked soup and return it to the pot before serving. This will create a velvety consistency and add a touch of luxuriousness to your meal.


5. Herbaceous Flavor: Experiment with different herbs to elevate the flavors of your soup. Consider adding thyme, oregano, or rosemary to infuse the soup with aromatic notes and a hint of earthiness.


6. Veggie Power: While the classic recipe already includes various vegetables, don’t be afraid to add more. Spinach, bell peppers, or courgettes can provide extra color, texture, and nutritional value to your soup.


Remember, these variations are just suggestions to get your creative juices flowing. Feel free to mix and match ingredients, spices, and cooking techniques to create a Widow Soup that suits your personal taste preferences. The beauty of this traditional Maltese dish is its versatility, providing you with endless possibilities for culinary exploration.


In the following section, we’ll delve into the best practices for serving and savoring Widow Soup to make your dining experience truly enjoyable.


Serving and Enjoying Widow Soup

Now that you’ve prepared a delicious pot of Soppa tal-Armla, it’s time to serve and savor this comforting dish. Here are some tips and best practices for making the most of your Widow Soup:


1. Presentation: Serve the soup in a deep bowl or a traditional Maltese soup pot. Garnish it with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, such as parsley or basil, to add a pop of vibrant color.


2. Accompaniments: Serve Widow Soup with a side of crusty bread or a warm roll. The bread can be used for dipping into the soup or to scoop up all the delicious ingredients.


3. Enjoying the Flavors: Take the time to savor the aromas and flavors of the soup. Notice how the different ingredients come together to create a harmonious and comforting taste experience.


4. Pairing with Wine: If you’re looking to complement the flavors of the soup with a glass of wine, opt for a light to medium-bodied red, such as a Merlot or a Pinot Noir. Alternatively, a crisp white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc can also work well.


5. Leftovers: Leftover Widow Soup can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. As the flavors meld together, the soup tends to become more flavorful over time. Simply heat it up on the stove or in the microwave before enjoying it again.


6. Comfort Food Ritual: Widow Soup is not just a meal; it’s a comforting culinary experience. Take the time to relax, slow down, and enjoy the nourishment and warmth that each spoonful brings.


Soppa tal-Armla, or Widow Soup, is more than just a dish – it’s a representation of tradition, community, and resilience. This beloved Maltese soup has the power to bring people together and evoke a sense of comfort and nostalgia. So, gather your loved ones, share stories, and savor the flavors that have been passed down through generations.


With its rich history, simple preparation, and delightful variations, Widow Soup is a culinary gem that can transport you to the heart of Maltese culture and cuisine. So, go ahead, enjoy a steaming bowl of Soppa tal-Armla, and let it warm your body and soul.


As you explore the world of food travel, make sure to immerse yourself in the local culinary traditions and flavors of the destinations you visit. From street food to traditional dishes, each bite tells a unique story and connects you to the heart and soul of a place.


So, pack your bags, embark on a foodie adventure, and let your taste buds guide you through an unforgettable journey of flavors and experiences.



In conclusion, Soppa tal-Armla, or Widow Soup, is a cherished dish that reflects the rich culinary heritage of Malta. With its origins rooted in solidarity and resilience, this soup has transcended time and become an iconic staple in Maltese cuisine.


From its humble beginnings as a soup shared among widows, Soppa tal-Armla has evolved into a beloved comfort food that brings people together. The combination of vegetables, grains, legumes, and herbs creates a harmonious blend of flavors and textures that warms both the body and soul.


Whether you stick to the classic recipe or explore the various creative variations, Soppa tal-Armla is a versatile dish that can be tailored to suit any palate. You can add seafood, meat, or spices to create your own unique twist and elevate the flavors.


But above all, Soppa tal-Armla is a dish that should be enjoyed with loved ones. It is a reminder of the importance of coming together, sharing stories, and finding comfort in each other’s company. In a world that sometimes feels fast-paced and chaotic, this traditional Maltese dish encourages us to slow down, savor each bite, and appreciate the nourishment that food provides.


So, whether you find yourself in the heart of Malta or in your own kitchen, give Soppa tal-Armla a try. Let its rich history and delightful flavors transport you to a place where tradition, community, and culinary pleasures merge. And as you embark on your food travel adventures, always remember to embrace the local flavors, traditions, and stories that make each destination unique.


So, grab your spoon, savor the warmth of the widow soup, and allow yourself to be captivated by the flavors of Malta.