Italian Wedding Soup

I don’t know how to say this, but, I never had Italian Wedding Soup at an Italian wedding. I never even heard of Italian Wedding Soup until recently. I have been to a ton of Italian weddings in my lifetime and never remember seeing this soup at one of those weddings, ever.  I think what we have here, once again, is the birth of an Italian-American dish. In this case soup with little meatballs and some form of leafy vegetable.

While the name indicates that the soup might be served at an Italian wedding, it is actually a mistranslation of minestra maritata, which, translated means “marriage soup” but refers to the “marriage” of greens and meat in the soup. Lost in the translation once again.

My mother and grandmother would put little meatballs in their chicken soup and also make chicken soup with escarole. Progresso soups have been putting out a soup like this for decades, they call it Chickarina soup, chicken soup with little meatballs. Chickarina was a fair standby in a pinch when we ran out of mom’s or grandma’s soup. Call it what you will, this soup has all the elements of a good hearty soup that sticks to your ribs. Perfect for a fall or winter day when a bowl of good hot soup really needs to hit the spot. And this soup does.

You can find a dozen different versions of this soup on the internet under Italian Wedding soup. I have taken all the elements of my grandmother’s soup and incorporated it into this recipe. You can make this soup quick and simple by using a chicken base or using store-bought chicken stock or broth. If you use your own chicken stock, all the better. I’m keeping it simple here. If you are determined to make your own chicken stock you can reference my “Mom’s chicken soup“.

Italian Wedding Soup

  • 6 tablespoons of chicken base or 2 1/2 quarts of chicken stock or broth
  • 1 small head of escarole, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts of water
  • 1 cup of uncooked Ditalini pasta

FOR THE LITTLE MEATBALLS:

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef.
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup dried plain bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 ounces whole milk
  •  2 ounces of grated romano cheese (about a cup)
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste

Place all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Place 2 1/2 quarts of cool water into a soup pot. Add the chicken base and mix well.  If you are using the broth or stock instead of the chicken base add it to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the washed and chopped escarole and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. While the soup is boiling make the little meatballs about the size of grapes and toss into the soup. Once all the meat is used up add the cup of pasta. Bring the soup back to a boil and cook until the pasta is done, about 7-8 minutes.

Serve the soup with grated cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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About Peter Bocchieri

Peter was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a second generation Italian-American. He has a degree in Journalism from Long Island University and is an avid photographer, gardener and pet owner. When Peter is not out selling, he is relaxing at his Rockland County home and cooking for his sons, Michael and Joseph, family and friends. Peter's passion for food was inspired by his Mother's and Grandmother's cooking, but at the age of 10 Peter felt he could do it better himself, so he did.
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