Thursday, January 3, 2013

Andrea Chesman: Italian Wedding Soup

My cooking tends to the one-dish supper — it’s easy to fix and clean up, it satisfies, and it enables me to plan around a specific vegetable without too much fuss. But in my writing I haven’t been giving enough love to Mom’s Best One-Dish Suppers, a book I wrote in 2005. Why not? I think because this type of cooking is so deeply ingrained that I rarely refer to a recipe and rarely think to write about it.

It’s soup weather now (as I write, we are deep in a blizzard), and I’ve been thinking about Italian Wedding Soup for a while. Greens and soup — particularly this combination of greens and meatballs in a clear broth — make a marriage made in heaven. Hence, minestra maritata has been translated as “Italian wedding soup,” though it was not necessarily served at wedding celebrations in Italy, where this particular combination was developed.

Greens and meatballs — a marriage made in heaven

I was at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op the other day and saw some gorgeous heads of escarole — and I knew it is time to make that family favorite. Escarole is in the chicory family, along with curly endive (frisรฉe), Belgian endive, and radicchio. Much less bitter than other chicories, its taste is quite similar to radicchio. You might also note it is less beautiful than radicchio and definitely less expensive to buy.


Traditionally, the leafy chicories, such as curly endive and escarole, are grown under covers to deprive the heads of sunlight, resulting in a paler, less bitter head. I think that custom is falling away, but I don’t mind; I like my greens bitter.

Gently boiling and stirring the Italian Wedding Soup

The escarole in this soup can be replaced with mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, chard, spinach, or cabbage, so feel free to substitute. The meat can be the more traditional ground pork or half ground pork and half ground beef.

12 cups chicken broth (homemade is best)
1 pound ground turkey
2 eggs
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup pastina or orzo (small pasta shapes)
1 1/2 pounds greens, chopped

  1. Bring the chicken broth to a simmer.
  2. To make the meatballs, combine the ground turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, Parmesan, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a food processor. Process until well mixed. Alternatively, mix by hand in a large bowl. Form the meat mixture into 1/2-inch meatballs (the size of marbles), and add to the simmering soup. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat slightly, add the pasta, and boil gently until the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the greens, and continue to boil gently until the greens are tender, 3 to 10 more minutes, depending on the type of greens. Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat, and serve.
A hot bowl of homemade Italian Wedding Soup — enjoy!

Adapted from Mom’s Best One-Dish Suppers. @2005 Andrea Chesman. All rights reserved.

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