Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup–some seriously scrumptious fare. Although it has several steps with a fair amount of time to have flavors meld, the final product is very much worth the wait and the effort.

Curious as to why the name is “wedding” soup, I googled it and wikipedia states, “The term ‘wedding soup’ is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata (‘married soup’), which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meat go well together.”

Ah, now it makes sense why it’s called “wedding” soup. Funny that it has nothing to do with food served at a wedding.

So, what makes this so yummy? It contains meatballs. And chicken. And some veggies. And some herbs. Nothing spectacular, really. It’s just the “marriage” of flavors that creates a taste sensation.

However, I personally think the way I cook the chicken makes a huge difference. And I can thank Cooks Illustrated magazine for teaching me how.  I borrowed their method for cooking chicken from the Chicken and Dumplings recipe (which is another killer recipe, by the way). The browning of the meat brings a deep flavor to the broth. Much more flavor than just boiling chicken breasts in water, for example. So although this step may seem like extra work, trust me, you won’t regret it.

And I just have to add this: hubby and I were eating this soup tonight, which is hitting the spot on this cool fall day with the ocean mist rolling in tonight, and he commented, “I feel good. This soup has happy in it.” Isn’t that cute?

Italian Wedding Soup

Printer-Friendly Recipe

INGREDIENTS

Meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground beef (I use venison or elk or bison simply because I have tons in the freezer from hubby’s hunting)
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 4 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. bread crumbs–or more if the meatball mix is holding shape (I chopped up one slice of bread in my food processor and it gave me plenty more than 2 tbsp., so I put the rest in an airtight container in the freezer for future use. I learned from watching the Barefoot Contessa food show that making bread crumbs from fresh bread brings more moisture to meatballs.)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped or 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 2 egg whites

Chicken

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 2 1/2 lbs., trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil

Soup

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/ 2 cup sliced carrots (approximately 2 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery (approximately 2 stalks)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 12 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup acini di pepi (tiny balls of pasta for soups) or other small pasta (I used orzo)
  • 8 oz. fresh spinach or escarole or curly endive or swiss chard…

DIRECTIONS

Meatballs

  1. Combine all ingredients and shape into 1/2-inch meatballs. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight to meld flavors and firm them up a bit.

Chicken & Soup

  1. Rinse thighs; pat dry with paper towels and season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper (or season more liberally, if preferred).
  2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until skin is crisp and well browned, 5-7 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown on second side, 5-7 minutes longer. Transfer to a large plate.
  3. Melt butter in pot. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic; cook until veggies get tender but not too soft.
  4. Add chicken broth and thyme. Scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan.
  5. Return chicken thighs, with any accumulated juices, to pot. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until thigh meat offers no resistance when poked with tip of a paring knife but still clings to bones, 45-55 minutes.
  6. Remove chicken from pot and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin. Pull meat from thighs and cut into 1-inch pieces. Return meat to pot.
  7. In the meantime, drop in meatballs and acini di pepi. Cook about 5-7 minutes longer.
  8. Add spinach; cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until wilted.
  9. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Savor the flavor!

SOURCES: adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker and Elly Says Opa; chicken method from Cooks Illustrated

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