As faithful readers know, I’ve been on a bit of a soup kick lately. It makes for a great lunch and with the weather the way it’s been, I’ve enjoyed the warm comfort of my lunchtime bowls.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife suggested I make Italian Wedding Soup. Having only ever had it out of a can, I can say I was not a fan. (Will I ever be able to eat Progresso again?)
But I do love meatballs and I do love soup, so I was willing to give it a try.
By far, this is the most labor-intensive soup recipe I’ve made and that’s because it calls for homemade meatballs. For a fleeting moment I thought about buying small frozen meatballs for the soup, but that felt too much like cheating — and that’s no way to treat a marriage.
I’ve made this soup twice in the last couple of weeks and both times it’s come out great. The first time, however, I made the meatballs much too large and vowed to make it again.
When you’re rolling out the meatballs, you want to think about what will fit comfortably onto a spoon. In order to make the meatballs right, you’re going to have to get down and dirty (see photo of my hands!), but once you take a bite you’ll be glad you did.
We used ground turkey for the meatballs to save on calories. You lose nothing in flavor, which comes from the garlic and fresh parsley. According to the recipe, it should make about 24 meatballs. I did that the first time and they were too big. The second time, I had about 40 little nuggets of flavor to plop into my soup stock.
What makes this recipe so delightful, like others I’ve made, is the mirepoix — three carrots, three celery sticks, and a large onion. The seasonings are simple. You add some oregano and salt to taste. Finish it off with two cartons of your favorite low sodium chicken broth to round out the ingredients.
My wife originally saw this recipe on a website called eatingwell.com. I altered it a bit, played around with the size of the meatballs, and came up with the perfect marriage of flavors and texture for this Italian Wedding Soup.
When you’re ready to serve it, drizzle a little olive oil on top and sprinkle some grated cheese. It’s like a honeymoon for your tastebuds.
For the meatballs
¾ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup low-fat half and half
1 large egg, lightly beaten
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated (and extra for garnish)
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, grated
½ tsp ground pepper
1 lb. ground turkey or chicken
Combine bread crumbs and half and half in a medium bowl and let stand for 10 minutes
Stir egg, cheese, parsley, garlic, and pepper into breadcrumbs. Add the chicken or turkey to the breadcrumb mixture. Here’s where you get those hands dirty. Mix until combined.
Roll the mixture into meatballs that will fit on a spoon. Arrange them on a prepared baking sheet (use cooking oil so they don’t stick). Broil until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees (about 10 minutes).
For the soup stock
4 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cartons of unsalted chicken broth
2 oz. of orzo (any more and it sucks up all the moisture)
1 Tbsp. oregano
½ tsp. kosher salt
4 cups baby spinach
Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and heat until the onion is translucent. Add broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Add orzo, oregano and salt, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is tender. (About 9 minutes).
Stir in the meatballs and spinach; cook until the meatballs are heated through and the spinach is wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes. Serve with sprinkled cheese and drizzled with olive oil.