As I say goodbye to the best summer ever in the Pacific Northwest, I try to convince myself there are benefits to the cooler weather. I replace my t-shirt with my favorite sweater, my flip-flops with my awesome purple suede boots, and snuggle into a bed fitted with soft flannel sheets and a fluffy down comforter. Drifting off to sleep, I dream about SOUP! Not July’s cold, fruity, melted popsicle like soup but hearty, hot, fill your belly, warm your soul, go on to live another day kind of soup! Butternut Squash Soup, White Bean and Kale Soup, Lentil Soup, Beef and Barely Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup (always on hand in the freezer for unplanned cold or flu), and soups I have yet to invent, soups from foreign lands, made with spices, beans and grains I have never tried. I snap out of my pre-winter doldrums and find myself almost giddy with excitement. I have stock to make, bones and veggies to roast, broth to clarify, beans to soak, and recipes to research. Where’s my tureen? I think I need a new stock pot! “Dave, I’m heading to Restaurant Supply, I’ll be back in an hour”!
It has been pouring heavy, bone-chilling rain all week. We’ve had a fire three nights out of five. I finally made time to make a pot of soup. I absolutely love Italian Wedding Soup. I have no idea when or where I first had it, but I always order it when it’s on the menu! I love the combination of the rich broth, the little one-bite meatballs and the strong, bitter greens, traditionally endive. In researching recipes, I learned this soup has nothing to do with weddings. Per Wikipedia, the term “wedding soup” is a mistranslation of the Italian language phrase “minestra maritata (“married soup”),” which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together. As you can imagine, there are hundreds of variations of this soup. My version is a combination of Whole Foods and Ina Garten’s recipes tailored to what I had on hand.
For the Meatballs
1 pound ground chicken
1 pound ground chicken Italian sausage
1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
3 cloves minced garlic
4 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
2 tablespoons fresh minced oregano
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons of milk
salt and pepper to taste
Mince the garlic, parsley and oregano. Place the meats, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, eggs, milk, garlic and herbs in a large bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little more milk if the mixture is too dry and not sticking together. Add a few more bread crumbs if the mixture is too wet and falling apart. Make a “test” meat ball. Warm a skillet over medium heat. Add a little olive oil to the skillet. Fry the test meatball until done, about 4 minutes on each side. Taste the meatball and adjust the seasoning. Proceed making small meatballs with the remainder of the meat. The chicken mixture is a little sticky. Dampening your hands with cool water will help. Place the meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 350′ to set the meatballs. Set aside until ready to add to the soup.
For the Soup
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
3 cloves minced garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
3 quarts rich chicken stock – I used the new Pacific Foods Organic Bone Broth – It’s as close to homemade stock as you can get!
1 14.5 ounce can fire roasted, organic diced tomatoes
16 ounces small pasta, I used mini-shells
16 ounces baby kale, or chard, or spinach or endive or any combination
salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Percorino Romano cheese
Sauté the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot, about 5-7 minutes. Add the white wine and stir. Add the stock and tomatoes. Bring to a slow simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Add the meatballs and continue to simmer slowly. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and prepare the pasta. Cook about 5 minutes, drain and add to the soup.*** Return to a slow simmer. Stir in the grated cheese. About 5 minutes prior to serving, add the greens. Cook just until the greens slightly “melt” into the soup. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with additional grated cheese and a little minced parsley.
***Both of the recipes I referenced instruct you to cook the pasta in the soup. NEVER do that with any pasta. You will end up with a big, cloudy, sticky mess. As a matter of fact, it is often best to keep the pasta out of the soup entirely, until ready to eat. Just place a little pasta in the bowl and then pour the hot soup over it when ready to serve.
Build a big roaring fire, pour yourself a glass of Pinot Grigio, and hunker down with your hot bowl of soup. We’ve got about 5 more months of this!
Have a great evening,