I love soup.
Soup means a lot to me. My mother made all the meals in our family, but my father made 98% of the soup. He would occasionally cook, usually recalling meals he’d eaten in Europe or South America during his 1960’s Army days, but he would make a huge mess and use every pan and buy expensive, weird ingredients that we never used for anything else. When I started dating, my father would make soup because he could spend lots of time chopping and slicing things, and when I came home he’d insist he wasn’t waiting up for me but was watching the soup. The cure for the common cold is my dad’s minestrone plus tons of Carlo Rossi Paisano until you pass out.
I’m very close to my Dad, so you can imagine making soup on my own is more emotional than most foods I make. I love that it starts with a recipe but can wander of on its own vibe. It’s never the same twice. It’s a forgiving medium, and it’s really hard to screw up.
Of all the soups I’ve made, and I’ve made a lot and many of them pretty fantastic, there was something completely incredible about tonight’s whack at Italian Wedding Soup. The recipe in Ina Garten’s Back to Basics seemed simple enough, despite this being my first attempt at meatballs and my not having quite exactly the ingredients the recipe required. The meatballs were moist and so flavorful. The soup sounds like it would be bland but it was so perfectly just seasoned. Really perfect.
I had the kind of day today that left me feeling completely drained and depleted and unhappy. Making this soup brought me comfort and peace; eating it filled me with happiness. Give this recipe a try, and don’t be afraid to stray a little. Try, taste, love.
**I just realized I read this wrong and used only 1/4 lb ground chicken, which made the meatballs taste very sausagey and cheesy. A tasty mistake, if I do say so.
For the meatballs:
- 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. Set aside.
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.