There is something so comforting and yet energizing about Italian Wedding Soup. It’s warm and hearty, but not weighed down with creams and cheeses. Not that there is anything wrong with cream and cheese, of course. This is the kind of food, though, that you feel strengthened by. Dark, leafy spinach – so rich in vitamins – layered throughout clean, flavorful chicken stock. Carrots cut into little jewels, nestled around light, bite-sized pork meatballs. Simple. Bright. Nourishing. Nothing, in fact, like an Italian wedding!* It’s all the things a good end-of-winter soup should be.
I make these little pork meatballs the same way I would meatballs for spaghetti with the exception being that these are made exclusively of ground pork, as opposed to pork and beef, and are studded with fresh tarragon. The latter of which, with parsley too, makes the soup lightly herby in flavor and so aromatic. Usually, I’d suggest cooking the noodles separately and adding them on a bowl-by-bowl basis in order to not have them lose any and all texture as the soup sits, but because I lessen the amount of noodles called for in this recipe and, coupled with the small size of the pasta, this extra step is unnecessary. I promised simple, didn’t I?
*I say this about Italian weddings as a born-and-raised Italian-American femme from New Jersey. My Super Sweet Sixteen happened for all of my cousins out on Long Island and then happened again when they all got married. As a result, you could say I know my way around smoke machines, stretch Humvees, and Venetian tables.
Italian Wedding Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Italian Wedding Soup; Serves 6
For the meatballs
1lb ground pork (feel free to sub ground chicken, turkey, or even beef)
2/3 cup dried Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 Tablespoons milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt & pepper
For the soup
2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup carrots, diced
3/4 cup celery, diced
10 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup small pasta such as rings, tubetini or stars
12 ounces baby spinach
Lemon zest for serving, if desired
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
For the meatballs, place the ground pork, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, tarragon, parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with your clean hands – this is the best method! Taking a teaspoon of the mixture at a time, form 1 to 1-1/4 inch meatballs and drop onto a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment. You should have about 40 meatballs when you’ve finished. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through. If you’d like, you can stop here and finish the soup within 3 days or go on to making it immediately.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until they’ve softened, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add the chicken stock and wine, bringing the mixture to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook until the pasta is tender. Add the meatballs to the soup and stir in the spinach, allowing the soup to cook for another 2 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. Check the taste for salt and pepper.
When soup is finished, ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, some additional parmesan, and a light sprinkle of lemon zest. Serve with warm, crusty bread, if desired. As with all soups, this is great on day one and amazing a day or two later, reheated.