Italian Wedding Soup with Escarole and Mini Meatballs

Italian wedding soup

Soup season is here and there’s nothing more comforting than coming in from the cold and warming up to a nice big steamy hot bowl of homemade soup, it’s good for the soul and good for the senses.

Certain soups evoke memories of the past and this is the one for me, Italian wedding soup. As a kid I just called it meatball soup, what kid doesn’t love cheesy flavored meatballs and teeny tiny pasta floating around in a big bowl!

There are so many versions of Italian wedding soup some by adding or subtracting different ingredients, and over the years I’ve even done that myself but the one thing that is constant and stays the same are those tiny little meatballs.

turkey meatballs

Flavoring up your meatballs is the key to this recipe, I’m talking garlic, onions, egg, parsley and a very healthy dose of grated pecorino romano cheese. You could also choose to add breadcrumbs but I don’t, I think it makes the tiny meatballs too dense, in my opinion you get a much lighter meatball without it. Just make them ahead of time so they’re ready to go.

My preferred meat to use is either ground turkey or chicken, since I’m using a chicken stock as the base anyway it makes sense, but I’ve also made it with beef as well, no rules here, choose whatever meat you like.

When I’m making the broth from scratch I’ll shred up some of the chicken and add it into the soup as well.

chicken stockclear broth

The shot right above shown with the spoon inside the bowl was done with a boxed, low sodium , organic chicken broth and straight up ground chicken for the meatballs with the same ingredients as stated in the recipe below. It’s quick, easy and tastes just as amazing!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the kind of girl who always has homemade stock in the freezer, I don’t always have the time and patience but I admire those that do. I think it’s because I like my broth to look nice and clear so I have to strain it a couple of times to get to that point. It does require some patience and time but it’s truly worth it if you do it.

I do however have a well stocked pantry of organic, low sodium boxed broth. Word of advice, if you’re going to make this with your homemade stock, do it ahead of time and have it ready to go.

In this recipe I used a combination of both, I do like the enriched flavor that the simmering homemade stock gives the soup plus I like to add in some of that shredded chicken anyway, so it’s a win win situation, but I always make such a large amount and I never have enough stock so I’m always adding my good quality, store bought stock into the mix.

So you can use all homemade stock, a combination of both or all good quality store bought. Trust me there’s so many flavors that mingle together, either way it all works out in the end.

Italian wedding soup ingredients

I also used escarole as my choice of greens but any hearty green will do, kale, chard or spinach as well. My favorite pasta to use is acini di pepe, little round and couscous shaped, but again any small pasta of your choice will do, anelletti pasta works well too, the kind that looks like spaghettiO’s

True confession, I never boil my pasta in the broth of the soup, I don’t like it when the pasta blows up and gets mushy, so in my house it’s always cooked on the side.

Then one last essential ingredient is cheese rinds. Have you ever used them before? Save all your cheese rinds of parmigiano or pecorino, but make sure some of the cheese is still attached because when thrown into your soup the rind will soften and the flavors of the cheese will infuse throughout the soup, it’s magic!

making soup

Then it’s a matter of sautéing your veggies, adding the broth and cheese rind and letting that simmer until the rind starts to melt.

meatballs

Add in your cooked meatballs  and shredded chicken and the very last thing is your greens.

Italian wedding soupItalian wedding soup

Add some of your cooked pasta into the bowls and ladle all that goodness on top, then sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese and a quick drizzle of olive oil.

Italian wedding soup

cooked pasta

As I said I love making the pasta on the side, this way it doesn’t blow up in the broth and get mushy, it always has a nice bite to it when I add it in.

 

Italian wedding soup

It’s hearty, healthy and made with love, true comfort food!

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Italian Wedding Soup with Escarole and Mini Meatballs
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 quart boxes of good quality stock or homemade stock or a combination of both
  • 2 chicken breasts, bone in skin on, cooked in the homemade stock, cooled and shredded, optional
  • MEATBALLS
  • 1 lb. ground turkey, chicken or beef
  • 1 egg
  • ½ small onion and 2 garlic cloves grated on a microplane
  • ½ cup, grated pecorino cheese
  • a good handfull chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • SOUP
  • 1 heaping cup each of chopped carrots, onions and celery
  • 3 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 big bunch escarole, chopped or greens of your choice
  • 1 or 2 cheese rinds (with some cheese attached)
  • parsley
  • grated pecorino romano
  • PASTA
  • 1½ cups dry small pasta like acini di pepe or anelletti shaped, cooked according to package then rinsed with cold water and set aside in a container
Instructions
  1. I used a combination of home made stock and good quality store bought.
  2. For the homemade stock I used;
  3. bone in skin on chicken breasts with enough water in the pot to cover, about 2 quarts, then add ½ onion or leek, 1 carrot, 1 celery, 3 garlic cloves, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Simmer until the chicken starts to fall off the bone.
  5. When stock is finished remove breasts let them cool and shred the chicken. Also strain the broth really good either with a fine mesh strainer or through cheesecloth until it's nice and clear.
  6. For the MEATBALLS mix together your ground meat, egg, garlic, onion, parsley, pecorino, salt and pepper until nice and incorporated.
  7. Roll into small 1 inch balls, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and into a 375F oven for 15 minutes, you can do this a day or two ahead. (You can also cook them stove top.) Prepped and ready to go.
  8. In a big heavy bottomed stock pot drizzle the bottom with olive oil and a dab of butter.
  9. Add all the veggies to the pot, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, when softened pour in your stock.
  10. When stock is hot add in your cheese rinds and then simmer partially covered.
  11. When you see the rind start melting and cheese bits start to fall off, stir and taste for seasoning and adjust.
  12. Add in your cooked chicken, if using it, and all the cooked meatballs and some fresh chopped parsley.
  13. Continue simmering.
  14. Remove rinds and add in all the chopped escarole or other greens of your choice.
  15. Stir and turn off the heat, then I always add in some grated pecorino romano for added flavor, a good handful.
  16. To serve grab a bowl, add some cooked pasta if so desired, ladle the finished soup on top, making sure to get a little bit of everything, more cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

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Pumpkin Pastina

pastina In many Italian households children are first introduced to pasta by way of pastina. Pastina literally means “little pasta”. Today you can find shapes of many different forms, from tiny dots to stars, alphabets, and many more. My own kids grew up with pastina, simply made with a little butter, and grated cheese, but this recipe takes it over the top with a beautiful presentation in a pumpkin, hence the name pumpkin pastina.

To this day it’s the kind of comfort food that my family and I still crave today.

When I first saw this recipe in Michael Chiarello’s cookbook…The Tra Vigne… all my fond memories of pastina came rushing back, I just had to make this!

Tiny pastina cooked in a warm broth flavored with onion, & thyme, adding to that, creamy parmesan cheese, and roasted butternut squash.

I can barely describe how good this is, it almost didn’t make it to the table, I’m warning you you’ll be tempted to eat it right over the stove with a spoon!

roasted pumpkin By all means, you don’t have to serve it in a pumpkin like it’s featured here, but the presentation is so eye catching and very festive for this time of year, and besides, you have to roast your butternut squash anyway so why not do it all on the same baking sheet.
This recipe serves four, and the pumpkin I used was on the small side about 6 or 8 inches round. I was going to use the green one in the photo as well but decided against it.
Just cut the top, scoop out the seeds, oil it inside and out, and season with salt and pepper. Place the lids back on the top when baking.
For the butternut squash, I just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, oil it inside and out add salt and pepper, and then place it cut side down on baking sheet.
Both will cook at 375F for about 40 min’s. You want your pumpkin still firm enough to stand up, so depending on what size you use, you might want to keep checking it.
NOTE: Do all of this earlier in the day to get it out of the way, the pastina cooks up fast.
autumn leaves This has nothing to do with the recipe at all, but I just wanted to show you the beautiful colors that were on these leaves that I saw when I was taking a walk the other day, I just love the fall colors!

pastina Michael added turkey in his recipe and cooked the pastina like risotto, adding the broth little by little. I didn’t do that.
You certainly could add turkey to it if you like, for a more heartier meal. I didn’t do that either. I might however, use his suggestion to chiffonade some chard or spinach into it next time.
FOR THE PASTINA:
In a pot, sauté about 1 cup of onion in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and fresh thyme.
Pour in 4 cups of stock (I used chicken) and bring to a gentle boil.
When stock is boiling pour in 3/4 lb. of your dry pastina or any tiny pasta.
When al dente, fold in about 1 cup of your roasted butternut squash that has been scooped out, and 1/2 cup of good parmesan cheese. Season it to taste with salt and pepper.
The consistency should be loose, so you might want to add more stock to it, so have extra on hand if need be.
Pumpkin pastina is the perfect meal to make this fall.
Buon Appetito!
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