Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup


There is hardly a better match for tasty pork than that of a rich chicken broth, but to add in vegetables for a lovely color accent and then completely send it over the top with cheese filled tortellini? Traditional or not, this soup just oozes with love. The first time I served this soup to a crowd was for a small wedding ceremony and at the time I did some research on how it had gotten its name. As it turns out the origins come from the soup's perfect marriage of flavors, so while the soup may have been misrepresented in a traditional matrimonial sense, there certainly isn't a single misstep in this soup's flavor profile.

My version of Italian Wedding Soup is one of the best recipes I have for entertaining since it always turns out  tasting fabulous, makes an impressive display in the bowl with all those colorful veggies, but best of all, the entire thing can be made ahead and brought together at the last minute.  In fact, the picture above is from the night before entertaining an extended family group of almost twenty (oops I missed spinach in the picture since that is added the day of serving) and just as on other occasions almost everyone had seconds and I was asked to be sure the recipe makes it to the blog.  As written here the recipe should easily feed 25 or more, even with hearty portion, since we sent home leftovers with guests. 

The addition of tortellini is certainly less traditional but I think the filled pasta is a better compliment to the meatballs. I used to add a smaller pasta like a tubettini or a ditalini, but inevitably little pasta bits become insignificant in the soup, not enhancing the soup with appreciable texture, and upon reheating they absorb much of the tasty broth and turn to mush. Of course tortellini are not much different in that regard, but the broth and meatballs are just too fabulous for any second rate pasta offense, so prior to storing leftovers, I simply pick them out.

For a real treat, reheat the leftovers in a pan over the stove and break an egg gently into the simmering broth. Easily one of the best things to look forward to when making this soup is the potential for leftovers with a perfectly cooked egg side-by-side in a bowl with that rich lovely broth and those fabulous meatballs.

6-8 Servings
Ingredients List
25+ Servings

2 teaspoon
 olive oil
1 Tablespoons
1
 onion, chopped fine
2
2
 cloves garlic, minced
4
½ cup
 carrots, chopped
1 cup
½ cup
 red/yellow/orange bell pepper
1 cup
1 teaspoon
 basil (fresh or dried)
2-3 teaspoons
10 cups
 chicken broth
96+ ounces
1
 beef bouillon cube/broth
 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained of juices
2-3
2
1 lb
 extra-lean ground beef
3 lbs
½ lb
 Italian sausage (mild/hot/sweet according to your taste)
2 lbs
½ cup
 parsley leaves, minced fine
1 bunch (1 ½ cups)
1/8 cup
 cracker/bread crumbs
½ cup
1/8 cup
 milk
½ cup
1/8 cup
 Parmesan cheese (from the can)
½ cup
4 ounces
8–12 ounces
 1-2 cups
 spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
½ - 1 bag

 salt and pepper  to taste


 Parmigiano-Reggiano  for serving

Broth: 

Saute the onion, garlic, carrots, and peppers in a large stock pot just until onions are transparent. Add the basil and chicken broth and simmer just until carrots are tender. Season to taste with bullion cubes, either beef, chicken, or a combination, for any perceived salt requirements. Add the tomatoes just prior to cooking the meatballs in the next step. 

Meatballs:

In a large bowl combine ground beef, sausage, parsley, cracker crumbs, milk and Parmesan cheese (the shaker can parmesan is dry and acts more like a bread crumb, but adds rich flavor and a lot of salt to the meat, so I find the meatballs rarely need salt.)  A KitchenAid mixer will do a good job of mixing the meat, but by far, hands are the best tools for the job.  The meatball mix should be well combined and uniform. 

The meatballs can be rolled perfectly round by hand, but when in a hurry, I simply scoop the meat with a small ice-cream scoop and plop it directly into the simmering broth to cook. If the affair is more fancy however, I still rely on the scoop for uniform size and roll each to give them a more dignified shape. 

Allow the meatballs to simmer in the broth about 10 minutes until they are cooked through. If serving the next day, stop here to cool and refrigerate. Remove any fat that may accumulate on the top of the soup prior to reheating.

Pasta:

Cook as directed on the package just a little less done that normal al dente. If using the next day, toss in butter or olive oil to keep them from sticking to one another and refrigerate. 

To Serve:

Bring the soup back to a simmer, just minutes before serving add in pasta and the spinach, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately with Parmigiano-Reggiano to finish. 

1 comment:

  1. This is hands down one of my favorite soups ever! I first had it at a fancy Italian resteraunt years ago and always wanted to try it again. This soup is perfect in so many ways. The combination of meat, pasta and veggies is well balanced...there is not "too much" of anything. The meatballs are the best I have ever had. I actually made a double batch and we snacked on them the following day. A meat ball that is good without anything surrounding it is a good meatball!!! I dont think I will ever try another meatball recipe these really are that good. The only thing I did differently in the recipe is that I used dried bread crumbs instead of crackers simply because I had them on hand. Otherwise I followed the recipe to the letter. My kids loved it and all of them commented how good they felt after eating it...testament to how balance this soup is...not just in flavor but also nutritionally. This soup also reheats well so having leftovers is a plus. This recipe will certainly make it into my Favorites box. I highly recommend it.

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