Italian Wedding Soup. A perfect marriage of meatballs, broth and green veggies.
Did you know that the name Italian Wedding Soup came about as a mistake in translation? Me neither…but those smarties over at Wikipedia assure me that originally it should have been called “Married Soup” because of the marriage of the meatballs and veggies but that got screwed up in the translation. Oh well, either way it’s yummy!
This is the second in our day of over-zealous recipe posting. If you missed the first recipe, you can go here for simple and easy directions to make your own Homemade Chicken Stock.
Come on, you can do it! There’s no football on TV this weekend so you’ll have lots of time to simmer a big old pot of stock.
If you’re not up to making your own stock, fear not. The self-appointed Queen of the Swanson Broth grants you the liberty of using store bought broth.
Either way, you should absolutely make this soup. I’m telling you….meatballs in soup…genius!
Here’s what you need:
Chicken Stock (homemade or store bought), Ground Chicken, Italian Sausage*, White Bread, egg, milk, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, spinach, parsley, Pecorino Romano Cheese, Pastina (tiny pasta), Olive Oil (not pictured), Salt & Pepper.
This recipe is a combination of an Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa recipe, my friend Cody’s Italian Grandmother’s recipe, and basic chicken soup know-how. Ina deserves credit for the idea of chicken meatballs. They’re lighter than the traditional beef/pork meatball combo. However, her recipe calls for chicken sausage which I’ve never been able to find. Therefore I get the credit for the idea of chicken and Italian Sausage meatballs. In my book, Italian Sausage makes everything better.
Let’s make meatballs! Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
If you have sausage links, remove the casing or outer “skin” from the sausage and dump them in a bowl. Two sausage links should be about 1/2 pound. Add about 1 pound of ground chicken to the bowl. I’m using ground white meat chicken to keep things even a little healthier.
Cut the crusts off 2 slices of good old white bread. (I used 3 slices here and had way too many bread crumbs. Two should do the trick and leave you more white bread for your grilled cheese sandwiches.)
Cut the bread into small squares and grind it up in a food processor or strong blender to make little tiny bread crumbs. For this recipe you want FRESH bread crumbs and not the dried packaged ones from the store. The fresh crumbs will keep the little meatballs from drying out.
Add 2/3 of a cup of the bread crumbs to the bowl of sausage and chicken meat.
Go back to your blender/processor and grind up some lovely, tangy Pecorino Romano cheese. You can also use a fine grater for this step or maybe even find pre-grated Pecorino at your store.
Add 1/2 cup of the grated cheese to the meatball mixture. You could also use Parmesan cheese, but I really like the tang of Romano and it’s MUCH cheaper than the real Parmesan.
Smash, peel and mince (that’s tiny, tiny chopping) 2 cloves of garlic. You want really small bits here so no one gets a garlic meatball surprise.
If you have one of those little mini food processors like me, you could always toss the garlic in there and let it do the chopping.
Lightly beat one egg and add it to the bowl.
Hey, there’s my foot. And garlic skins on the floor. Oops. Good thing my mother doesn’t have internet access.
Add 2-3 Tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley and 3 Tablespoons of milk.
Now for the fun part! With your impeccably clean hands, get right on in there and mix everything together.
Geez…the trash can is in this picture. Classy!
You don’t want to overwork the meat into mush but go ahead mix well enough to thoroughly combine the sausage with the chicken and incorporate all of the other ingredients.
Then using a small spoon – I used a Tablespoon measuring spoon – scoop out a little bit of the mixture and roll it into a ball.
This meatball mixture is VERY wet so don’t worry if you’re not really rolling meatballs but more like shaping little blobs of meatballs. Put them on a sheet pan lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Make the meatballs very small – we want them to be bite-sized. Something about the size of a big gumball.
Bake the meatballs in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until they are golden brown and yummy.
This makes a TON of meatballs. I used 3 pans and rotated them in the oven halfway through cooking time to let them all brown evenly. It’s good to have a ton of meatballs since you will undoubtedly want to eat several of these before they ever get near the pot of soup.
While those meatballs are cooking, start chopping the ingredients to make the soup. Chop up one large onion.
Chop up 3 or 4 carrots. If you cut them into long skinny strips and then cut across the strips, you’ll get nice little carrot bits.
Chop 3-4 ribs of celery the same way.
Heat 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add the veggies and saute them over medium heat for about 10 minutes until they are tender and glossy but not browned.
Add 2 quarts – that’s 8 cups of chicken stock to the pot.
Bring the pot of soup to a boil over high heat and then turn the heat down to low and simmer (nice gentle bubbling) for about 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, your meatballs in the oven should be done and your soup should have had enough time to develop great flavor from the vegetables. Add 1/2 cup of Pastina or tiny pasta.
This comes in a variety of shapes and sizes – even alphabet letters. I’m using stars but I’ve also used pasta shaped like tiny little beads or cylinders. Just be aware that the tiny pasta SERIOUSLY puffs up when it cooks. Don’t use more than 1/2 -3/4 cup of dried pasta or you will have a giant pot of pasta with very little soup.
Season the soup with plenty of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. If you want a little more zip, you could also add some dried red pepper flakes.
Cook the pasta for about 10 minutes. While the pasta cooks, chop up at least one bag of fresh spinach.
I love spinach so I used about 1-1/2 bags. Give it a rough chop into smaller pieces and add it to the pot. This seems like a huge amount of spinach but it will shrink down as it cooks.
When the spinach wilts down, add the meatballs to the pot of soup.
Let the meatballs go for a quick swim to warm up then dish it up! A little extra cheese on top never hurt anyone.
True story: I’d never made or even had Italian Wedding Soup before I met my husband. This is his favorite soup and something he requested one time when I asked him what he’d like for dinner. Usually when I ask, he comes up with completely unhelpful but humorous suggestions like Salisbury Steak. ????? This time he picked a winner.
Here’s the recipe: