Italian Wedding Soup is a perfect summer-to-autumn transition soup. Especially on a cool rainy weekend like it’s been around the Philly area.
Now that summer’s over, the kids are back to school, and all the city’s pop-up beer gardens are deflated, it’s time to think about spending some quality time in the kitchen. Let’s put some music on and make a few dozen mini meatballs! I’d love it if you’d join me and make the chicken stock from scratch. Whenever I have bits and bones left over from carving a whole chicken I like to store them in a one gallon freezer bag. When that bag fills up, its time to make stock! I don’t really follow a recipe – you could say I wing it. A whole chopped onion, a few carrots, celery stalks, some parsley, salt, pepper, a bay leaf, chicken carcass, a full stock pot of water. Cook the vegetables until translucent then add water. Simmer super low for four to five hours and skim off anything that floats to the top. Then go do some laundry and wash some dishes. You’ll feel extra productive cooking and cleaning at the same time.
How’s the laundry doing? Ready to make mini meatballs? Thoroughly combine ground pork, ground beef, bread crumbs, reggiano, parsley, salt, pepper, and one egg. Cover and chill the mixture for an hour or so. Now’s a great time to prep your onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Try to finely dice them in 1/4″ cubes. To make the individual meat balls you can use a spoon or your fingers to make half inch round balls. I tried a new method that worked well for me. I spread out the meatball mixture on to a clean surface and flattened it out to a 12×8″ rectangle. Then I used a bench scraper to divide the ‘meatangle’ in to smaller squares so I ended up with something like an 8×10 grid. This gave me roughly 80 mini meatballs. I should have photographed this but I find think a big slab of ground meat would be that interesting let alone appetizing. Chastise me if you wish.
Once you have all your meatballs formed you can sear them in 2-3 batches with a little bit of oil in your stock pot over medium high heat. Set the meatballs aside and reserve a bit of the grease for the vegetables. Cook the onions first just until they start to get translucent. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds then add the carrots and celery.
Here’s a little cooking tip when using salt here. If you salt the onions, carrots, and celery they’ll start to give off some liquid to help them cook. On the other hand you could add a cup of chicken stock for the vegetables to stew in. Either method will work fine but, for me, I’ve been trying to go light on seasoning my soups. We’ll be adding salted meatballs, salted chicken stock, and salty cheese on top of the final soup. Might not be a bad idea to wait until everything has simmered in the soup for a while before the final seasoning.
This recipe makes four quarts of soup. Aside from the time it takes to make 80 mini meatballs, there’a bit of a wait to bring 16 cups of liquid up to temp. Don’t rush it! Gently heat the soup over medium low heat until it starts to bubble. It should be a gentle simmer. Besides, you probably have laundry to fold and the turntable isn’t going to flip the record for you. Once you start seeing a few bubbles you can add the meatballs and the Acini de Pepe. Give the meatballs time to melt in with the soup and now check for salt and pepper. About a minute before the pasta is fully cooked you can toss in the chopped escarole. Don’t over cook the escarole. You don’t want to murder the stuff. Overcooking greens generally makes them dark green and that’s not pretty.
I feel like garlic croutons are mandatory for Italian Wedding Soup. I don’t really have a great recipe but I’ll tell you how I make them. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and three crushed cloves of garlic to a cool pan. Gently bring the pan up to heat over a medium flame to infuse the garlic in to the oil. Just before the garlic starts to brown take them out and discard them. Cut up some Italian load bread or baguette in to half inch cubes and toss them in the oil. Transfer the croutons to a sheet pan and broil them for 60-90 seconds. I like mine burnt with just a hint of salt. You can adjust accordingly to your tastes.
Serve Italian Wedding Soup with Garlic Croutons and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano. And a nice chianti. Eww, no. A pinot grigio or a procesecco will be fine.