Indulge in the rich culinary heritage of Croatia with this traditional dish, Manestra stew. Bursting with robust flavors and wholesome ingredients, Manestra embodies the essence of comfort food. This rustic stew, originating from the Istrian region, combines tender beans, savory meats like pork or sausage, and a medley of aromatic herbs and spices. Slow-cooked to perfection, each spoonful offers a taste of warmth and satisfaction, making it a beloved staple in Croatian households. Whether enjoyed on a chilly evening or as a centerpiece for gatherings, Manestra stew promises to tantalize the taste buds and evoke fond memories of home-cooked goodness. Try your hand at this authentic recipe to experience the heartwarming essence of Croatian cuisine.


  • 1 cup dried beans (such as cranberry, pinto, or borlotti), soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 200g pork shoulder, diced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cornbread, for serving


1- Rinse the soaked beans and drain them. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced pork shoulder (if using) and cook until browned on all sides.

2- Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, diced carrots, and diced celery to the pot. Sauté until the vegetables are softened and the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

3- Stir in the soaked beans, bay leaf, dried thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Pour in the water or vegetable broth, ensuring that the beans are fully submerged.

4- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer gently for about 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the beans are tender and the soup has thickened. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary to maintain desired consistency.

5- Once the beans are cooked through and the soup has thickened, taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed.

6- Serve the Manestra hot, accompanied by slices of cornbread for a hearty and satisfying meal. Enjoy the rich flavors and comforting warmth of this traditional Croatian bean soup!

Nutritional Values:

Here's an approximate nutritional breakdown for the ingredients used in the Croatian Manestra recipe:

1 cup dried beans (such as cranberry, pinto, or borlotti):

  • Calories: 225
  • Protein: 15g
  • Carbohydrates: 40g
  • Fiber: 15g
  • Fat: 1g


  • Excellent source of plant-based protein.
  • High in dietary fiber, which promotes digestive health and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium.

200g pork shoulder:

  • Calories: 380
  • Protein: 39g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fat: 25g


  • High-quality protein source, essential for muscle repair and growth.
  • Contains important vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium.
  • Provides essential amino acids necessary for various bodily functions.

1 onion (medium-sized):

  • Calories: 44
  • Protein: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Fat: 0g


  • Rich in antioxidants, particularly quercetin, which may have anti-inflammatory and heart-protective effects.
  • Contains prebiotic fibers that support gut health and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • Provides vitamin C and other nutrients important for immune function and overall health.

2 cloves garlic:

  • Calories: 10
  • Protein: 0.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Fiber: 0.2g
  • Fat: 0g


  • Known for its potent antimicrobial properties, helping to combat infections and boost the immune system.
  • Contains sulfur compounds that may have cardiovascular benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Rich in antioxidants that protect against oxidative damage and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

2 carrots:

  • Calories: 50
  • Protein: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Fat: 0g


  • Excellent source of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, important for vision health and immune function.
  • High in antioxidants, including vitamin C, which may help protect against cellular damage and inflammation.
  • Provides dietary fiber, promoting digestive health and aiding in weight management.

2 celery stalks:

  • Calories: 16
  • Protein: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Fat: 0g


  • Low in calories and rich in water content, making it a hydrating and refreshing snack.
  • Contains antioxidants such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Good source of vitamin K, important for bone health and blood clotting, and potassium, essential for heart function and blood pressure regulation.

2 tablespoons olive oil:

  • Calories: 240
  • Fat: 28g


  • Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E, which protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  • Contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.

Cornbread (per serving, approximately 70g):

  • Calories: 200
  • Protein: 5g
  • Carbohydrates: 35g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Fat: 4g


  • Good source of carbohydrates, providing energy for daily activities and exercise.
  • Contains fiber, which aids in digestion and promotes feelings of fullness.
  • Provides essential nutrients such as iron, magnesium, and B vitamins, important for overall health and energy metabolism.

Please note that these values are approximate and can vary based on factors such as specific bean type, cut of pork shoulder, and portion sizes.


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