June 8, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

Ooops.  I took this to class one night towards the end of the semester and one of my girl friends asked for the recipe.  I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget and put the note in a safe place.  Where it has been sitting unnoticed for several weeks.

My family loves Italian Wedding Soup and I love how easy it is to make.  It is especially nice when you have a sore throat and I am sure some study would tell you all about its healing qualities.

There are three basic components which can all be made ahead of time and put in the freezer for a quick meal.

1- A good stock.  You could buy a stock from the market but making your own is so easy and so cheap why???

2- Meatballs

3- Acini de pepe -I think this is the best pasta for Italian Wedding soup.  Sometimes it can be hard to come by at our market so any small pasta will do.

Greens - escarole, kale, spinach, arugula,  whatever you like and can get will work.  I have even used beet greens from my garden.  It's all good.

Parmesan cheese

Stock

For the stock I save meat bones and trimmings and toss them in the crock pot after we have steak or roast.  You want enough to fill your pot about halfway.  If you don't have a large family so that you will have enough from one meal just toss them in a gallon size freezer bag and pop it up in the freezer until you have enough to make a batch of stock.  You can also get stock bones from your butcher for free or cheap.  A cheap cut of meat (say chicken thighs or wings, some ham bones etc...) is also a good option for making a pot of stock.  Really, any kind of meat bones or trimmings will make a good pot of stock.

Put the bones and trimmings in your pot, add an onion cut in quarters, a carrot peeled and cut in half or thirds and two celery ribs cut into large chunks.  Next toss in a handful of herbs (fresh or dried) and a couple of bay leaves, if you have them.

Cover with cold water, making sure everything is immersed.

Now, if doing on the stove top, bring to a boil and reduce to low.  Allow to simmer at the lowest setting for 2-3 hours.

If doing in the crock pot, put the lid on and set to high.  When it starts boiling away, remove the lid and let simmer a few hours.  If I put it on after dinner, I turn it to high for an hour or so and then turn it to low and let it simmer with the lid on all night.  In the morning, I take the lid off for an hour or two and let it reduce slightly before moving on.

Once the stock has cooled, I use a slotted spoon to remove all the solids to the trash can.  Then I pour it through my fine mesh juice strainer.

Next, put in storage containers and pop into the fridge for a few minutes to bring the fat to the top and harden it.  Scrap off the fat.  Add the lids and put in the freezer until you are in need of a great pot of soup.

Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork or sausage with the casing removed*
1/2 pound ground veal*
3 slices white bread
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt, omit if using sausage with salt added
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup parsley, dried okay
1 T. minced onion, dried okay
3 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2-3 cloves minced garlic, dried okay
milk

*On the topic of the ground meat... I have a hard time getting ground veal so I often just double the pork.  I prefer to get hot Italian sausage for my meatballs but anything you like will do.  In a pinch I even used a roll of breakfast sausage from the market one time.  It was surprisingly good but very fatty and much saltier than what I get from our butcher.

1. Put bread in the bottom of a mixing bowl.  I use my kitchen aid.
2.  Pour enough milk over top to cover bread.  You want it to become very soggy and fall apart but not to have any milk floating around.  Let sit until the milk is absorbed.  You can break it up with your hands or the paddle of your mixer.  
3.  Add eggs, salt, pepper, parsley, onion, garlic and eggs.  Mix well.
4.  Add meat and mix well.
5.  Add bread crumbs until you can form a ball that holds it shape.  Don't add too much bread crumbs or your meatballs will be hard and dry.

*Note this makes an excellent meatloaf.  You can double the recipe and put one batch in a loaf pan for later in the week.

Now if you are making meatballs for pasta shape into balls and put on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes on 350 until nice and brown.  Turn once while cooking.  Then move to freezer for later use or add to crock pot or stock pot and cover with sauce if you will be eating them tonight.

If you are making the soup get your stock boiling nicely.  Then drop small balls into the boiling stock.  I like to use my melon baller to make nice and tiny meatballs.  It takes a bit of time but I think the bite sized ones are nicer for this recipe.  

Once you have added all the meatballs to the stock, you are ready to move on to the next step.  

Finishing the Soup

Cook the pasta by the box directions under cooking by a minute or so.  You don't want the pasta to be overcooked once it is added to the soup.

While the pasta is cooking, get your greens into the pot with your stock and meatballs.  Sometimes I toss them in whole and sometimes I take the time to chop them up a bit.  It really is just a matter of preference and how much time I have on my hands.

By the time your pasta is cooked, your greens should be properly wilted and incorporated into your soup.

To serve spoon some pasta into the bottom of a bowl.  Use a slotted spoon to add some meatballs and greens.  Top with a ladle of broth.  Sprinkle with cheese.

For the Crock Pot

For a winter day or to take this to a pot luck dinner, cook the stock in your crock pot as directed above.  If you already have stock in the freezer, run your container under hot water for a minute and pop the stock cube out of your container into the crock pot.  Put the lid on and let it cook away until it is simmering well.  

After removing solids, or once your frozen stock has come to a nice simmer, add your meatballs and let simmer an hour or more (up until a half hour or so before you desire to eat.)  Add your greens at that point.  

For the pasta you have two choices.  If you want less pots, you can add it to the crock pot and cook it in the stock until almost tender, then add your greens.  However, I was raised to believe it was a sin to over cook pasta so I prefer to cook it on the stove and add to the stock just before serving.  Most people don't mind it on the softer side so if that suits your family toss it in with the greens and save a dirty pan. 


5 comments :

  1. That sounds fantastic! I've been wanting to make some Italian Wedding Soup- soup is one thing I like to eat right now :o)

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    1. With my last pregnancy, I found this particularly soothing for morning sickness. I don't know if it was just because it happened to be winter so it was the thing we were making or if it was just the craving that worked. But it did.

      Hugs,

      Kat

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  2. I will make it as soon as I can get some greens... maybe I can get some at the market this weekend :o)

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    1. Be sure to pop back and let me know what you think!

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    2. I made it today and it was great! I have a picture here http://inthedovecote.blogspot.ca/2012/06/making-soup.html
      Thanks for sharing!

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