Sunday, January 27, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup

Did you know that January is national soup month? I didn't and now you know too! 

I love soup. Wait, correction. I really love soup. Soup comes in so many varieties that it's hard to find one that you won't like. Some like it creamy, some like it chunkier and some like it simple. I like it all. Surprise, surprise. When I go with creamy I love broccoli and cheddar soup.When I go with chunkier I usually like a thick chicken noodle. When I like something simple a black bean or lentil soup usually does the trick. See, I told you I liked soup. I really haven't met a soup I don't like. You know what makes soup even better? Dunking crackers or the perfect grilled cheese in the soup. To me, dunking makes the soup that much better.

I have been trying to find the next perfect soup recipe to try and then came along a recipe for Italian wedding soup. Why did I not think to try to make this soup sooner? I love Italian wedding soup and that's not just because I am Italian. Seriously. This soup is perfect and has a little something something for everyone. This soup consists of mini meatballs, lots of fresh spinach, tiny tiny pasta and lots of chicken broth. What could be bad about that, right? Right! This soup was flavorful, hearty and so so delicious. Even better, it was so simple to make and it makes a lot of soup. Lots and lots of soup! Here's how to do it. Get a big pot ready!

The first part of this soup is making the teeny tiny meatballs. I was a little intimidated about making these meatballs because to be honest, for an Italian girl, I have yet to perfect the science that are meatballs. Someday, I will make the perfect meatball, but as for the ones in this soup, they turned out pretty darn delicious. The original recipe called for only ground beef, but if there is anything I've learned about making meatballs is that they also need Italian sausage too. Oh, and garlic. Lots of garlic! How could this recipe not use garlic? Then again, I love garlic in everything. Maybe a little too much garlic. Nevertheless, once the meat and other ingredients are all combined, you just roll them into little balls - go as little as you can, mine were a little big- and then put them in the fridge to firm up. Do not skip this last step! If you don't, your meatballs will fall apart in the soup. Broken meatballs make for a sad sad soup.

While the mini meatballs are chilling, you start base of the soup by celery, onions, garlic and carrots in the pot (a big pot - this makes a lot of soup!) until they are soft. Then you add in the chicken broth, let simmer and then comes the best part - adding in the meatballs! I was a little worried that boiling them for a long period of time would make them tough, but I was wrong. So wrong. Those little balls of joy turned out flavorful, tender and delicious! Once the meatballs are swimming around, add in the fresh spinach and small pasta. I used acini de pepi. You can find this in most stores these days. If you can't find that pasta, you can use orzo or any other small pasta you can find. Just make sure to not add to much. That was my mistake. The 3/4 cup I added didn't seem to be enough, so I added double the amount, if not more. Boy was that wrong. As the captain would tell me, I should have just followed the directions. Ya, I don't always listen. Those little pastas took awhile to expand and once they did, they took over the whole soup and absorbed all the broth. Please promise me that you won't make that mistake! Other than that, this soup is just perfect. It's always been a favorite and now it's really my favorite. I am pretty sure if you try this soup, it will soon be your favorite too. The captain even gave this one two thumbs up. If that doesn't say a great recipe, I don't know what does!

soupy ingredients

dry meatball ingredients
the best way to mix up meatballs = your hands!
up close and personal with the meat balls

mirepoux = onions, garlic and celery
bock bock chicken broth.

be careful when adding the meatballs. Don't burn yourself
this soup will make you strong like Popeye!

letting everything simmer makes the favors so much better

soup is served!

Italian Wedding Soup (adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 lb lean ground beef and 1/2 pound mild italian sausage)
1 small onion, grated
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs (add more as needed, you want the mixture moist, but not too wet or too dry)
1½ teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 egg whites

For the Soup:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
½ cup sliced carrots (approximately 2 carrots)
½ cup sliced celery (approximately 2 stalks)
1 clove garlic, minced
12 cups chicken broth
Salt & pepper to taste
¾ cup acini di pepi or other small pasta
8 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

Combine all ingredients for the meatballs and shape into small (½-inch) balls. Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Melt butter in the now-empty stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently add the meatballs to the soup and cook for 7 minutes. Add the pasta and cook for an additional 6 minutes. Add spinach and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Cover again and allow to simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Allowing it to simmer for a little longer allows all the new flavors to meld together.

Pair this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich for dunking and a glass of wine and you have the perfect meal. Also note, this recipe makes a TON of soup and it freezes great!

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