italian wedding soup
In a previous post I mentioned that on my list of favorite soups, broccoli cheese and french onion rank right up at the top. I’m not the type to really crave soups, but when I do it’s predictably one of those two. While I love experimenting with new recipes, I pretty much figured if there was another soup as reliably cravable as those two I would’ve come across it already! But then I picked up a copy of Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics from our local library, and just looking at the pictures of her version of Italian Wedding Soup, I knew it had the potential to join those two in my soup hall-of-fame. There is something magical about the combination of delicious little meatballs with pasta, fresh baby spinach, and other tasty veg in a savory chicken broth, and now that we’ve tried it it’s definitely earned a place in my top three!
Strangely enough, before I came across Ina’s recipe it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could (and should!) make italian wedding soup at home. I remember liking it well enough while I was growing up, but the only place I ever had it was from a can! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on the menu at a restaurant, and it wasn’t something my family cooked, so I didn’t really cross paths with the stuff enough to have it on my cooking radar. But the good news is, now that I’ve tried this recipe, I never need worry about where my next bowl of Italian Wedding is coming from. This recipe was seriously delicious and easy, has a pretty simple ingredient list, and it all comes together in an hour so you can definitely make it on a weeknight (although it also makes an amazing Sunday dinner). And it is soooo good. Just the right ratio of meaball to broth to veg, and delicately seasoned with fresh herbs.
A few notes. First, the meatballs are awesome. They are mostly ground chicken, and then you supplement with a little of whatever kind of sausage you like. We used a hot italian sausage, which was nice because when mixed with the chicken the spiciness was muted but the nice flavor came through. But you could also use a chicken sausage, turkey sausage, or whatever else you like. Also, the meatballs are baked so you don’t have to fuss with browning them in an oily pan, which is great in my book. The other note is the herbs– usually I find dill a little strong, so I was nervous about throwing in a handful of it, but when it was mixed in the soup you really couldn’t taste the dill hardly at all. Rather than a dilly flavor, it was really just gave the soup a freshness that really complemented everything else, so if you can get some of the fresh stuff, don’t hesitate with it! Finally, the spinach– Ina calls for, in my opinion, a crazy amount, which I bought and prepared but as I was throwing it in I was like whoa, really?? And I stopped, and we thought it was plenty spinachy as is. So I’ve called for the very specific amount of “three handfuls,” which is the point where I decided to abandon Ina’s spinachphilia and call it good. Feel free to adjust to your tastes– all in all, the soup is pretty fuss-free, so go where you like with it and enjoy!
Italian Wedding Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Back to Basics
For the meatballs:
1/3 lb ground chicken
1/4 lb hot italian sausage (or sausage of your choice)
1/3 cup panko (or fresh breadcrumbs if you’re really on top of things)
2 cloves garlic, minced
heaping 1 T fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan, pecorino, or a combination of the two
1.5 T milk
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
For the soup:
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large carrot, chopped into small chunks
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
5 cups chicken stock (I used 5 cups water and 2 T better than bouillon)
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup ditalini (little tubes) or other small pasta
about 1 T fresh dill, chopped
3 generous handfuls baby spinach, washed
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and start mixing the meatballs. In a medium bowl, combine ground meat, panko, garlic, parsley, cheese, milk, egg yolk, and salt and pepper. Stir together with a spoon or fork until well mixed.
Using two teaspoons, spoon out small globs (we made ours a little smaller than 1 inch, but you could go even smaller if you have the patience) of the meatball mixture and plop them onto a large baking sheet. We ended up with a little over 30 meatballs, but your results will depend on the consistency of your meatball size. Bake for 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top and cooked through, then remove and set aside.
While the meatballs are cooking, chop your onion, celery and carrot. Place a soup pot over medium and heat a drizzle of olive oil, then toss in the onion, celery and carrot. Saute until soft, stirring occasionally, then add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil.
When the soup boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente. By this time, the meatballs should be done and out of the oven already, and when the pasta is cooked toss them in along with the fresh dill. Boil it all together for a minute or two, and when you’re ready, toss in your baby spinach and stir until it wilts. Serve immediately, sprinkled with some extra parmesan!