*** This recipe was originally posted on The Good Egg blog in March, 2009.
I haven’t been reaching for my Barefoot Contessa books as often as I used to, but I did come across this soup in her newest book. Trying to wean myself off of Ina and enjoying other cookbooks in my collection. However, the picture in her book of the little meatballs on the pan was enough to end my hiatus.
I did change a few things from that recipe. I didn’t have any small pasta to put in the soup so I decided not to add any. After a pasta is added to soup, no matter if the pasta has been cooked ahead of time or not, it still soaks up stock to some degree. Not much of a problem, but at this time of year, my homemade chicken stock is in short supply – I tend to use it soon after it’s made. I’m sure to be a traditional Italian Wedding soup, it should have pasta in it – that’s why I felt compelled to call it “My Italian Wedding soup”. I have not had an Italian wedding of my own, though I have been a guest at a few.
Another prudent decision I made was not adding baby spinach to the whole pot of soup. I knew once I added the tender, healthy green leaves, my kids would immediately react negatively. Without the spinach, the kids enjoyed bowls of this delicious soup, and Alan & I enjoyed it with lots of wilted greens and extra Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.
In the Barefoot recipe, she calls for 3/4 pound of ground chicken and sausage. Most packages of ground chicken and sausages weigh in at about 1 pound each. I decided to use all of the chicken and sausage and I increased most of the other ingredients for the meatballs to make up for it. There were a lot of meatballs, but they are the star of the soup and people won’t complain. You will need to add extra chicken stock or water to the soup pot, but wait and see until after everything has been added.
A word about homemade chicken stock – it is so easy and so worth it. When I buy a whole chicken to roast, I have two things on my mind. One is cooking the perfect roast chicken for dinner, and the other is using the leftover carcass for stock. For directions, go to the entry “Conspicuous Consumption & How to Make a Good Chicken Stock” (Nov. ’07). I mentioned to a neighbour that I had made this incredibly good soup. She sort of frowned and said, “Well, you probably make your own chicken stock.” I told her that I do, but that she could too. Really she could. And so could you.
My Italian Wedding Soup
For the meatballs:
1 lb. ground chicken
1 lb. sausage (chicken or turkey Italian sausages), casings removed
1 c. fresh bread crumbs
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped fine
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/4 c. milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 t. salt
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
For the soup:
2 T. olive oil
1 c. onion, diced
1 c. carrots, diced small
1 c. celery, diced small
10c. chicken stock, preferably homemade
A handful of baby spinach for each serving of soup
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the ground chicken, sausage meat, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Parmesan cheese, milk, egg, salt, and pepper in a bowl and combine gently but thoroughly with your hands. Wish a teaspoon, drop little meatballs (about 1-inch in diameter) onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. There will be lots. They don’t have to be perfectly round. Bake for about 30 minutes, until cooked through. Set aside.
2. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 minutes or so. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs to the soup. Simmer gently. Taste for salt & pepper.
3. For each bowl of soup you are serving, place a handful of baby spinach in the bottom of the bowl. Ladle the soup into the bowls with the spinach. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.