Make Italian Wedding Soup

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Maria, Lynn, Eng and 1 other

When many people hear the words "Italian wedding soup", they automatically think of a broth served during wedding banquets. You might be prompted to ask what makes this soup special enough to deserve such a position in wedding spreads. This hearty dish of meatballs and vegetables is actually not part of traditional wedding menus in Italy. The name itself is a literal and somewhat mangled translation of the Italian phrase "minestra maritata" (married soup), which refers to the marriage not between people, but between meat and vegetables.

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This filling dish has become a very popular menu item in Italian restaurants in the United States, and food historians often refer to it as an Italian-American soup. In its country of origin, Italy, it is customarily served during the Christmas season in two regions, Campania in the south and Lazio in the central peninsular section. If you look at how this soup is made, you will agree that it is a very appropriate soup for cold winter nights.

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The recipe for Italian wedding soup varies from kitchen to kitchen, but it will always have green vegetables like endive, lettuce, kale, escarole, or spinach. Meats customarily included in this soup include meatballs, sausage, shredded chicken or a combination of the three. All of these are cooked in a clear broth made from chicken stock, together with some form of pasta, or lentils.

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What is nice about this soup is that you can start preparations as early as two to three days before your family sits down to eat it. You can cut and blanch the vegetables, cook the pasta, get the stock going, and simmer the meats to within 10 minutes of their being completely done. You can store everything in the refrigerator and finish cooking 15 minutes before dinner. While your soup is simmering, you can warm up some thick crusty bread in the oven and relax while your family enjoys a truly satisfying meal.

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Three Recipes for the Same Hearty Delight

Although there is a basic way to cook this delightful dish, its ingredients can be changed so that the soup tastes different. Here are three versions of Italian Wedding Soup: one with pork and bacon, a second extremely healthy version using chicken or turkey, and a third one that uses beef and kosher salt. Go though all three, and don't be afraid to create your own.

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Italian Wedding Soup (with pork)

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Ingredients for the Meatballs

  • 1 medium onion, very finely minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 rashers bacon, fried until crisp and crumbled (Set aside around 2 tablespoons.)
  • 1 slice fresh white bread, bread broken into small chunks after crust was trimmed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 16 ounces (2 cups) ground pork
  • Freshly ground black pepper
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Ingredients for the Soup:

  • 12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound curly endive, coarsely chopped or any greens (cabbage or escarole make good substitutes)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoon Parmesan that is freshly grated, add extra for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
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Procedure for making the meatballs:

  1. 1
    Combine the first 7 ingredients and mix thoroughly.
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  2. 2
    Add the cheese and pork and blend well
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  3. 3
    Make meatballs using about 1 ½ teaspoons of this blend
    .
    Meatballs must be about an inch in diameter each.
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  4. 4
    Place on a baking sheet.
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Procedure for Making the Soup

  1. 1
    In a large pot, bring broth to a boil over medium-high heat
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  2. 2
    Add meatballs, and then add the vegetables
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    Allow the broth to simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and vegetables are done. The meatballs will take about 10-12 minutes to cook.
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  3. 3
    Whisk eggs and cheese together in a medium bowl
    .
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  4. 4
    Begin to stir the broth in a circular motion, and drizzle the egg and cheese mixture into the pot
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    Stir the broth gently as you drizzle the mixture to create egg strands.
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  5. 5
    Season the soup with salt and pepper according to your taste.
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  6. 6
    Ladle soup into individual bowls
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    Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and bacon bits.
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Italian Wedding Soup (with chicken or turkey)

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Ingredients for the Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground meat, either turkey or chicken breast
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup quick cooking oatmeal
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
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Ingredients for the Soup

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup spring onions
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 medium stalks)
  • 4 cups chopped cabbage (roughly 1/2 small head)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
  • 8 cups roughly chopped escarole or finely cut up kale leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
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Procedure

  1. 1
    In a large bowl, combine meat, egg, parsley, breadcrumbs, garlic, oatmeal, Worcestershire, pepper and salt.
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  2. 2
    Allow meat to firm up by refrigerating for about 15 minutes
    .
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  3. 3
    Shape the mixture into 3 dozen meatballs (about 1 scant tablespoon each).
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  4. 4
    Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large sauté pan to fry meatballs until browned for approximately 8 minutes.
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  5. 5
    Remove the meatballs and set aside
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    Remove pan from heat and de-glaze by pouring white wine, taking care to loosen all browned bits sticking to the sides.
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  6. 6
    Use a Dutch oven or soup pot and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.
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  7. 7
    Sauté onions until translucent, and then add carrots and celery
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    Stir occasionally until cooked.
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  8. 8
    Add cabbage and cook 5 minutes more
    .
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  9. 9
    Stir in broth, beans, greens, meatballs, and all other juices from the pan.
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  10. 10
    Bring pot to a boil, and then simmer for about 20-25 minutes
    .
    When vegetables are tender, ladle into individual bowls and top each with a teaspoon of grated cheese.
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Italian Wedding Soup (with beef)

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Ingredients for the meatballs:

  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound beef sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (around 2 cloves)
  • 3 + 1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (Set aside the extra tablespoon of parsley.)
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
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Ingredients for the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (about 2 to 3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • ½ cup diced celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 10 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
  • A dash of Italian seasoning
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Procedure:

  1. 1
    Mix together all ingredients together
    .
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  2. 2
    Drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper
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    (You will should have about 3 dozen meatballs.)
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  3. 3
    Bake meatballs for approximately half an hour or until browned and cooked through
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    Set it aside for a while.
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  4. 4
    In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil and sauté onion, carrots, and celery for about 5 to 6 minutes or until the vegetables have softened
    .
    Stir occasionally, making sure all the pieces cook evenly.
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  5. 5
    Add the chicken stock and the wine
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    Bring mixture to a boil.
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  6. 6
    When the soup is boiling, add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until pasta is tender.
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  7. 7
    Add a dash of Italian seasoning and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes
    .
    Taste broth and season with salt and pepper.
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  8. 8
    Add the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute or until the spinach is wilted but still a bright green.
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  9. 9
    Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a little parsley.
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Tips, Tricks and Warning

  • You can make this soup as early as 3 days in advance or freeze it for up to 5 months.
  • Topping the soup with a little cheese just before serving gives it an added layer of flavor.
  • You can use Panko (Japanese crumbs) for your meatballs.
  • To make homemade breadcrumbs, remove crusts from loaf bread and tear into pieces. Process in food processor to make coarse or fine crumbs. You can use the crumbs as they are, or bake for about 10-15 minutes at 250 degrees F.
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If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please post in the comments section below.

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Article Info

Categories : Appetizers & Finger Foods

Recent edits by: Eng, Lynn, Maria

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