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Friday, April 1, 2011

Italian Wedding soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup
by Victoria Challancin

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I love apocryphal stories.  Not because I lean toward that which isn't inherently true.  Quite the contrary. But there is something in the stories that swirl around us pretending to be authentic, pretending to state the truth, usually something whimsical that grabs the imagination.  Food stories abound in this very realm--just think of Puttanesca Sauce (How many versions of the true root of that delicious sauce are there?)  Just think of real food, made by real people, made the same way it was always made by their mothers, their grandmothers, their neighbors, their village.  That's how names come into being to describe so many dishes.  Hunter's wife's chicken?  Oh yes.  Seafarer's sauce?  Definitely!  Italian Wedding Soup, served at all Italian weddings.  Not so fast...

In fact, supposedly Italian Wedding Soup gets its name from the fact that it is such a perfect marriage of flavors and is not served at weddings at all.  Se sposano, the Italians say.  The ingredients "marry," hence the name Minestra Maritata, which somehow, somewhere along the way was  translated as "Wedding Soup."  And it stuck.  Forever.

Mention Italian Wedding Soup and you know what to expect.  Well, more or less.  There must be as many versions as their are Italian nonnas.  Strong broth, meatballs, greens of some sort, pancetta, Parmesan--these are the hallmarks of this soup; however, the recipe begs for interpretation.   I would like to tell you that I learned to make this particular recipe at the feet of my Italian aunts, but it would be untrue (though I learned other recipes that I will surely share at some point!).  And although fun food stories, yes, apocryphal ones, make me smile, I like to stick to the truth.  And the truth is that this recipe comes from a wonderful source:  Check it out for great information and recipes as well.

Italian Wedding Soup
 (Recipe from
Serves 6-8
Note:  this is an extremely flexible recipe.  You could add other greens such as kale or chard, add grated lemon zest to the meatballs and some lemon juice to the broth, or add red pepper flakes to the onions and garlic as they cook. The name is actually a mistranslation as it isn’t traditionally served at weddings; rather, it refers to the marriage of greens and meat, which make a good union indeed!

3/4 pound ground organic meat (chicken, turkey, pork or beef)
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 bunch greens trimmed and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 6 lightly packed cups) (Natura often has escarole, which is a traditional ingredient
Lemon juice, to taste

Combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of each cheese, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, then form the mixture into 3/4-inch to 1 1/2-inch balls. You should have 20 to 30 meatballs, depending on how large you form them.

In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, and cook, turning, until browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes. (If they are still a bit pink in the middle, don't worry, they will continue to cook in the broth.) Set them aside on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

In a 4 to 6 quart soup pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until onions are tender and garlic is soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the greens, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 eggs and remaining cheeses in small bowl and stir with a fork to blend. Slow pour the egg mixture into hot soup, stirring constantly. Cover and simmer just until egg bits are set, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, maybe even a squirt of lemon juice, and serve immediately in a low bowl if possible so the meatballs are visible.  To re-heat, simmer gently over low heat.


Victoria Challancin
Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, México

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Ahh I really thought that this was a soup served at weddings! It does sound scrumptious though and the flavours sound gorgeous together!