I’ve always had a thing for Italy. The rolling hills, the winding lagoon, the architecture, the music – I could go on, but I’ll stop it at what’s most important – the food.
What I really love about Italian food is its simplicity – you’ll rarely find an Italian dish that requires more than five or six main ingredients. That’s because Italians cherish quality over quantity – it’s evident in everything from their sturdy, centuries-old homes to their penchant for fine leather. You won’t find any crummy subdivision houses or “skim milk” there, at least in my fantasy version.
Even the integral ingredients are basic and mild, yet rich in flavor. Take olive oil, for example, with its subtle hint of fragrant olives and smooth, buttery consistency. There are few things in this world I enjoy more than free pouring a few tablespoons of olive oil into a warmed saucepan and watching it shimmy its way around the bottom, greeting every corner of my pot.
And then there’s the cheese. I praise the day I discovered fresh, fragrant blocks of Parmesan cheese – until then I’d only ever had it in a can, all dried out and awful like you find in the pizza-in-a-box kits. To this day, I still can’t stand the sound of the flavorless little chunks of powdered cheese shaking around in those godawful green canisters that used to lurk in the back of my parents’ fridge.
My most recent Italian discovery is one I try to limit – only because I know if I allow myself to actually buy it at a market rather than enjoy it fleetingly at a restaurant, I will most definitely fall into a salty ham addiction and end up hospitalized for high blood pressure, all 400 lbs of me. Prosciutto, I’m looking at you.
I could go on and on about breads and pastas and meatballs, but I think this recipe pretty much sums it all up. Rich with flavor and texture, this Italian Wedding Soup is kind of addictive and a total reward for minimal effort.
I came up with the recipe after a year of eating as much of it as I could at restaurants – and once from a can, which I don’t recommend. As I was making it, and tasting as I went along, I noticed something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what. It was lacking some kind of thickener, but also a bit of a bit of tanginess – that’s when I realized I’d forgotten to add the eggs. I suggest adding them gradually to get the perfect consistency – and don’t let the soup come to a boil after you add the eggs. And, for the love of God, don’t forget the cheese. It’s the best part.
Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 4 – 6.
2 large pots
1 lb lean ground chicken
1/4 cup grated yellow onion
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
*Note: This recipe yields a few more meatballs than needed for the recipe. Add them all for a heartier soup, or boil the amount you’d like to use in the soup, and freeze the rest while raw. Pull them out the next time you want to make Italian Wedding Soup, which if you’re anything like me, will be sometime next week.
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup acini de pepe or orzo pasta
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Italian bread, optional
In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients. Mix well, then form into small 1-inch balls. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add meatballs and boil until they are cooked through and float to surface of water, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.
In a separate large pot, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion, garlic and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and garlic begins to brown. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente.
In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Stir in Parmesan. Gradually stir mixture into soup until combined. Add meatballs and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with additional Parmesan. Serve with Italian bread.