If you've read my blog you know that I love soups, especially during the fall and winter. Generally, I have tended to make the same ones over and over: sausage-lentil soup, split pea, and beef barley.
But whenever I go out to a restaurant and see Italian Wedding Soup on the menu, I order it! It's a great soup that features tasty, tiny meatballs that float in a flavorful chicken stock full of veggies and either small pasta or barley.
I decided it was time to make this glorious soup. I found several recipes online. After reading through various reviews, I decided to adapt Ina Garten's recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/italian-wedding-soup-recipe/index.html), which uses chicken. I had ground beef and ground pork on hand, which are traditionally used in this soup. So I just used those. Also, I didn't have any pasta on hand but I did have barley. Given the relatively short cooking time for this soup, I suggest that you boil the barley in water (don't use salt, though, as you will season the stock) until it's tender and then add the cooked barley along with the meatballs. Finally, I have been using lots of spinach recently and decided to use escarole instead. I used a whole head, which was the perfect amount for about 10-12 cups of stock.
The final result was absolutely delicious. It's hearty and flavorful.
Italian Wedding Soup
For the meatballs (I used ground pork and ground beef):
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
10 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don't have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned.
In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted.
Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.