A bowl of steaming soup can cure whatever ails you – whether it’s the blustery wet weather we’re having here in Cali, snow-white blizzard conditions or a busy day at work where all you want to do is relax and put something warm and comforting in your hungry belly. Because we eat with our eyes first, a soup of many colors and textures is especially inviting and exactly why Italian Wedding soup, with an abundance of vibrantly colored, good-for-you vegetables, plump meatballs and dapples of tiny pasta shapes, is one of our all-time favorites.
There are a lot of things I make that never make it to the blog because I don’t bother to write down my “method” or take pictures – especially at this time of year when it’s dark at 5:00 p.m. But when I shared my version of Italian Wedding Soup on Instagram and Facebook it received a lot of love and friends clamoring for the recipe, so I’m sharing it here, too. Fortunately, I had written down the ingredients and typed up the directions before I forgot and there was plenty of soup left to take a few hi-res shots.
I hope you all are enjoying the weekend and getting your holiday shopping and decorating done with minimal stress. We hosted our second annual Ugly Sweater Holiday Party last night – so much fun!! – so bought our tree and accomplished all our Christmas decorating the weekend of Thanksgiving. Throwing a party is excellent motivation 🙂
Even the guys were in the spirit! Grampa on the right won – you would have to see this sweater to appreciate its details. And, of course, considering the company I keep, there was an abundance of festive food and much to drink!
Back to the Italian Wedding Soup recipe so you can cozy up by the fire.
Why is it called Italian Wedding Soup?
Everyone always asks, “Is it served at Italian weddings?” And the answer is, it depends on who you ask.
Wikipedia notes that the term “wedding soup” comes from the Italian language phrase “minestra maritata” (“married soup“), which is a reference to the flavor produced by the combination/”marriage” of greens and the meat.
This soup has grown extremely popular outside of Italy, but you might be surprised to learn that, while it often appears as part of a traditional Italian Easter, Christmas or San Silvestro (December 26) feast. It has nothing to do with Italian weddings and never has.
According to SpruceEats.com, Italian folklore suggests that this soup is traditionally served at Italian weddings to the bride and groom to provide “energy” throughout the evening. This soup originated in Naples and its original Italian name is really minestra maritata, which means “married soup” in relation to the “marriage” or unity of all the ingredients. The ingredients consist of leafy, bitter greens (chard, kale, chicory, etc.) and a hearty meat broth with pork, beef, ham hocks or sausage. Although the Americanized version includes tiny meatballs and a little bit of greens, traditionally this soup was heavy on the veggies and didn’t include meatballs at all. Really, there was nothing fanciful and elegant about the soup at all, as it was considered a peasant dish and used whatever meat bits and greens were available to throw in. (Mici Handcrafted Italian)
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 3/4 cup Panko crumbs
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Comte cheese *
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 8 cups homemade turkey stock *
- 3/4 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 2 tablespoons extra vigil olive oil
- 1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 1 leek sliced or 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, ground beef, parsley, garlic, Panko, egg and spices. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix all the ingredients together. Use to scoop up small amounts of the meat mixture and form 1 inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on parchment paper placed on a rimmed baking sheet. I made about 40 small meatballs for the soup and a few larger ones for meatball sandwiches. Bake for about 30 minutes until browned.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables for the soup If you're using a leek, wash thoroughly, cut off the upper dark green part and discard. Then cut the white and light green part of the leek in half lengthwise and slice crosswise. For the kale, remove the center rib using a knife or your hand and chop or tear the leaves into pieces. In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and cook the carrots for 5 minutes. Add the celery and leeks and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chile flakes and garlic and cook for another minutes.
While you're cooking the vegetables, heat the turkey stock in a large soup pot over high heat until boiling. Add the pasta and kale, lower the heat to medium high and cover. Cook for about 8 minutes until the pasta is al dente and kale is softened. Add the carrot mixture, meatballs, and thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes more to heat all the ingredients and meld the flavors. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.
*Comte is a French aged cheese, Parmesan and Fontina are equally delicious.
*Low Sodium Chicken Broth may be substituted.
However you celebrate your holidays – may they be filled with family and friends, peace, love and joy!
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