Brrrr - it's getting cold around here. I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving, finished up all the leftovers, and is ready to start cooking again. The outside temperature has plummeted and there are few meals better at fighting off a chill than a big bowl of heart-warming soup. One of our family's favorite is Italian Wedding Soup. I start by making homemade chicken stock, then I add lots of delicious goodies like incredibly flavorful bite-size turkey meatballs, sauteed vegetables, fresh spinach, and teeny tiny little pasta shapes. Mmmm - it's so good.
This recipe requires a lot of prep, but it's worth it. I like to make it on the weekend when I have time to chop veggies and roll mini meatballs to the likes of Beethoven or Bach.
Rather than add the precooked pasta directly to the soup pot, add it to the individual soup bowls just before serving so it doesn't overcook and get mushy. Also, if you love this soup as much as I think you will, do yourself a favor and make a double batch of everything so you can have a freezer meal ready to go. Just freeze separately the chicken stock, precooked meatballs, and precooked pasta that has been tossed with a little olive oil. When you need a quick meal, just heat everything up and add sauteed carrots, celery, and chopped fresh spinach.
ButterYum's Hearty Italian Wedding Soup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely minced onions
1 clove finely minced garlic
pinch of salt
1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey
3 tablespoons Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
8 cups homemade chicken stock
4 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
5 ounces fresh spinach, tough stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
1/2 pound acini di pepe
pasta, cooked (or other teeny pasta shape like stars, orzo, etc)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Garnish - sliced scallions, chopped parsley, grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
For the pasta:
Cook pasta in salted water until al dente (a few minutes shy of package directions).
Drain pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and stir to coat; set aside until needed.
For the meatballs:
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the onions and a pinch of salt in olive oil until golden brown; stirring frequently.
Add minced garlic and stir constantly until very fragrant, about 30-60 seconds.
Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit before adding to the remaining meatball ingredients; mix well.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Form meat mixture into 80 1-inch meatballs (I use this #100 scoop) and place on greased or lined sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven and cool (no tasting at this point - they're not quite cooked through yet).
To make the soup base:
In a large stock pot, bring chicken stock to a gentle boil and add carrots, celery, and partially baked meatballs; cook for 10-15 minutes until carrots soften.
Add chopped spinach and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Keep pasta and soup separate until serving so the pasta doesn't get mushy.
Place about 1/4 cup cooked pasta in a bowl and top with a hearty ladle or two of soup (8 meatballs per serving).
Garnish with sliced scallions, chopped parsley, and/or grated Parmesan or Romano cheese if desired.
Make a double batch and freeze some for a meal later. Simply freeze separately the chicken stock, precooked meatballs, and precooked pasta drizzled with olive oil. When you need a quick meal, just heat everything up, add sauteed carrots and celery, and chopped fresh spinach. Sometimes I replace the pasta with cooked wheat berries or quinoa.