When it comes to my favorite cookbooks, Ina Garten’s name shows up more than once on my top ten list. Her Italian Wedding Soup in Back to Basics is wonderful. It seems so wrong to change a thing, but really, I just tweaked it here and there to suit our taste.
The most time-consuming part of this recipe is forming the meatballs. Although if you’re in a good frame of mind, it can be therapeutic. Put on some good music, enjoy the view from your kitchen window, sip on some wine… you get the picture. I was thinking it would be a great idea – should the mood hit – to double the meatball recipe, bake an extra tray and pop them in the freezer for another day.
The easiest way to form the meatballs is to use a small melon baller. Don’t worry about making them perfectly round… the main thing is that they are bite-sized. Baking them in the oven instead of frying them is pure genius! They become evenly crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. All that with no grease splatters to deal with. While the meatballs are baking, it’s time to work on the soup.
Be sure to use a dutch oven or stockpot that holds at least 8 quarts. This soup cooks quickly once the vegetables are sautéed and the broth is simmering. If you are serving it right away, the pasta can be cooked right in the broth with the rest of the ingredients. If not, it would be advisable to cook the pasta separately and add it right before serving. That way it won’t absorb all of the delicious broth before it is enjoyed.
When the meatballs are removed from the oven, they will be completely cooked.
They are added to the soup just before it is done, along with the fresh greens. Top with freshly grated cheese and serve with some crusty bread. If you’re extra hungry, add a green salad and you have a hearty meal!
italian wedding soup
Adapted from Ina Garten in Back to Basics
For the meatballs
- 3/4 pound ground chicken
- 2/3 pound chicken sausage, casing removed
- 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (1 ounce)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese plus extra for serving (1 ounce plus extra)
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup
- 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
- 1 cup minced yellow onion (1 medium / 5 ounces)
- 1 cup 1/4 inch-diced carrots (3-4 carrots / 12 ounces)
- 3/4 cup 1/4 inch-diced celery (2 stalks / 4 ounces)
- 2 46-ounce cans chicken broth (or homemade stock)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup small pasta (tubetini or stars)
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
- 12 ounces baby spinach, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, cheeses, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. Using a melon baller or small spoon, drop 3/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 84 meatballs.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
While the meatballs are baking, 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 broth 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 cheese.
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