Thursday, January 7, 2010

Italian Wedding Soup

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It's been extremely cold here in Chicago... some say it's been the coldest winter in years! Fortunately I've been keeping warm at home and haven't had a chance to experience the low temperatures first hand, at least not for very long. Like many others, when cold weather strikes, soup is a meal we like to warm up with. For dinner tonight, I made a pretty popular soup - Italian Wedding Soup.

What I really like about this soup is that it's hearty, flavorful and really hits the spot. The original recipe is from Cook's Illustrated and uses chopped kale or swiss chard. I realized I forgot to pick some up after getting home with my groceries so I used chopped spinach instead, which turned out fine if added just before serving.

Another thing to note is that the meatball recipe for this soup is also delicious with pasta or any Italian inspired recipe. The original recipe calls for using 'meatloaf mix' which is a mixture of ground pork, beef and veal... but if your grocery store doesn't carry this, you can just use 1/3 lb each of ground pork, beef and veal (or 1/2 lb each of ground pork and beef if ground veal isn't available).

I can't think of a better soup to enjoy during the cold temps tonight. The only thing missing is some fresh, crusty homemade bread to enjoy this soup with! Enjoy!


Italian Wedding Soup
recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated (winter 2009)


Meatballs:

2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg yolk
1 oz parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lb 'meatloaf mix'


Place the milk and torn bread pieces in a bowl then mash together with a fork until smooth. Add all the remaining ingredients except the ground beef and ground pork, mash to combine. Add the ground meats and knead the mixture by hand until it's well combined.

To make uniform sized meatballs, use a melon baller or small scoop. This recipe yields about 50-55 meatballs, depending on the size of your scoop. If you don't have a scoop, feel free to free form them by making the meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. Place your meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Chill them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and you can even make them up to a day in advance.



Soup:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 quarts low sodium chicken broth
1 cup dried orzo pasta
1 large bunch fresh spinach leaves, cleaned and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
salt & pepper to taste


In a dutch oven over medium high heat, heat the oil until it starts to shimmer. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking until it's fragrant (roughly 30 seconds). Add the broth, chilled meatballs and orzo pasta. Simmer until the meatballs are fully cooked and the pasta is tender. Stir in the spinach and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over a bowl of this soup and sprinkle a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese!

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