All of us need a little comfort from time to time – a lost game, a blown test, a broken heart or simply just not feeling well. To my mind and that of millions of mothers everywhere, nothing soothes better than a bowl of good chicken soup. And so many cuisines have their version – Chinese wonton, Jewish chicken soup with kneidlach, Greek avogolemono and many more. Frances was under the weather with a case of bronchitis when she came for Thanksgiving and fortunately I had just made a big pot of Italian wedding soup – the Italian version of a great chicken soup. While, of course, it is best if you make your own chicken stock, there are several good commercial brands available now and I am not above using them. This soup is at its prettiest when you first serve it and the spinach is still a bright green, but the taste is just as wonderful several days later. If you are using a commercial chicken stock, this soup can be made in under and hour. Nothing knocks out the blues or sore throats better than this – unless of course it is Wonton soup or Jewish chicken soup or …. you get the point.
Italian Wedding Soup adapted from Ina Garten
Yield: 8-10 servings
For the meatballs
1 pound ground chicken (all white or a mix of white and dark)
1 pound raw chicken sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I would not use a very spicy sausage here)
2 slices of whole grain bread, crumbled
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons milk (any kind will do)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 rounded teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup Asiago, Pecorino Romano OR Parmesan cheese, grated
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
For the soup
2 Tablespoons EVOO
2 bunches of spinach, washed and trimmed or about 16 ounces fresh baby spinach (it cooks down)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped to small dice
2 to 3 stalks of celery or fennel, sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
8-10 cups of good quality chicken stock, preferably unsalted
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 generous cup tubetini pasta
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. I use my hands as the best way to distribute everything evenly. Dampen your hands slightly to prevent too much sticking and form into small balls. There is no magic size here – make them the size you like, just not giant balls. Place on a baking pan lined with foil or parchment or a Silpat and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.
- In the meantime, heat a couple of tablespoons of EVOO in a large heavy pot (about 6-7 quarts) over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, diced carrots and celery and sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally.
- Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil.
- Add the pasta and simmer it for about 6-8 minutes.
- Add the meatballs. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust your seasonings. The soup can be made ahead up to this point and refrigerated until ready to eat it. The pasta will continue to expand some so you may need to add some more chicken stock later.
- When ready to serve, gently reheat the soup and bring it to a simmer. Add the fresh dill and spinach and simmer for one minute. Any leftover soup will be delicious but the spinach will not retain the bright green color. If you like you can add a sprinkling of extra cheese on top when serving.