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Italian Wedding Soup: Nourishing, full of flavor and surprisingly easy to prepare

Posted: January 14, 2014 - 4:28pm  |  Updated: January 15, 2014 - 9:59am

The first time I ever tasted Italian Wedding Soup was when I lived in Pittsburgh in the early 1980’s. It was served to me at the former Tivoli’s Restaurant on Rodi Road in Penn Hills, and I enjoyed it so much, that I ate it at least once a week for the remaining years I resided in Pittsburgh where my husband worked for WTAE radio. Italian Wedding Soup has since become a popular menu item on Italian restaurants around the country, but like other “firsts,” only a handful compare to what I remembered relishing at Tivoli’s. It’s a surprisingly easy soup to put together, made with ingredients that marry well. In fact, research shows that the term “wedding” soup probably has more to do with how well components of the recipe pair than other explanations on how the soup got its name, including claims that Italian Wedding Soup will help to “energize” the newly married on their wedding night. Chicken broth infused with the taste of meatballs, the nutrition of endive and the swirl of egg fortified with cheese and fresh ground pepper cannot be adequately described, so if you haven’t yet sampled Italian Wedding Soup, I hope you’ll give this Western, Pa. favorite a try soon.

 

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Italian Wedding Soup

3 quarts de-fatted chicken broth (recipe follows)

3 carrots, cut into coins and cooked until barley tender

Meatballs (recipe follows)

1 pound curly endive or escarole, well rinsed and coarsely chopped (may substitute with an equal amount of baby spinach)

1 large egg

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese

Dash fresh ground black pepper, plus more for serving

Acini di pepe (pastina) or Orzo pasta, cooked, for serving

Parmesan cheese for serving

Minced fresh parsley, for garnish

For the de-fatted chicken broth

4 pounds chicken parts (backs, wings and legs are good) with bone and skin

4 quarts water

1 large onion, rinsed but not peeled (the peel adds color)

3 celery stalks with leaves, rinsed

2 medium carrots, rinsed and peeled

Handful of parsley sprigs, rinsed

2 teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon black peppercorns

 

Rinse chicken and place in a large stockpot, adding the onion, celery carrots, parsley, salt and peppercorns. Cover chicken with water and bring water to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam. Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, uncovered, for a minimum of two hours, skimming the surface, as necessary. Remove large pieces of chicken from the broth with a slotted spoon, then strain the entire contents of the pot through a cheesecloth or paper towel-lined colander; discard the solids. Bring stock to room temperature, then chill overnight. The next day, remove the surface fat. Use immediately, store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or pack in containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Makes 4 quarts.

For the meatballs

1 pound ground chuck

¼ pound ground lean pork

1 large egg, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon minced garlic

8 fresh Italian parsley sprigs (leaves only), finely chopped

¾ cup fresh soft bread crumbs (from about three slices bread, with crusts);

do not use dry bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a mixing bowl, combine the meat with the egg. Add the garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, cheese, salt and pepper; mix well. Shape meat into meatballs about 1-inch in diameter. Place meatballs in a roasting pan. (There is no need to space the meatballs in the roasting pan; they will shrink during baking.) Bake meatballs at 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes or until nicely browned; set aside. (Don’t worry if the meatballs are not cooked completely through, they will finish cooking in the soup.) Makes about 40 small meatballs.

For the soup

In a large stockpot, bring the broth to a simmer. Add the meatballs and carrots and cook, covered, for ten minutes. Add the endive to the pot, cover, and cook until endive is tender. While the soup is cooking, blend egg with 1 tablespoon of cheese and dash of ground black pepper. With a fork, drizzle in egg, a little at a time, into the moving broth. (Ribbons of egg will form and egg will cook immediately.) Spoon some of the cooked pasta into soup bowls, ladle soup, along with meatballs and vegetables into bowls, garnishing with parsley. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper.

Makes about 8 servings depending on appetite.

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