Sunday, April 28, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup...No Longer an Invited Guest

As most of you know, there is a wedding rapidly approaching in our family. Preparations are well under way and as I listen to the details of the upcoming event, I realize that the cost of today's weddings is staggering. Years ago, you could have bought a house to live in for thirty years for the price of  what this one day event is now. In fact, our first house cost less then my son and his bride's wedding will. And trust me, this is not an "over the top" extravaganza! The bride and groom have made every attempt to keep it sensible while achieving elegance. And successfully so, but venues, catering, photographers, music, and transportation, come at a price these days. And it makes me think of how it use to be.

Old pictures of my mother's wedding day made me realize that at one time, most weddings were done at home, and were not just family events, but neighborhood gatherings as well. And everyone contributed food and wine to mark the festive occasion. The caterer was usually the mother and aunts of the bride, and in an Italian family, the menu always included Wedding Soup! A flavorful concoction of chicken broth, pasta and meatballs. Slightly labor intensive, its making was usually reserved for special weddings.

Growing up on the apron strings of immigrants from Palermo, Italy, my Grandmother and aunt, did everything to enhance my culinary curiosity. Great cooks both, they never used recipes. Ingredients were thrown into a pot, magically coming out wonderful and I learned early on to pay attention or be forever lost on recreating some of my favorite childhood memories.

I once asked my grandmother how she made chicken broth and she looked at me like I had lost my mind. "You put chicken wings, celery, carrots, tomatoes and onions in a pot, cover it with water and turn the stove on." Even with her thick Italian accent, I sensed the last part  as being a little condescending, but I got her point. Not rocket science, just wholesome, common ingredients.
The base of great homemade chicken stock!

So here we go, my take on a timeless recipe. I know you've had it, but if you haven't made it, spend a Saturday afternoon creating something you will want to have at least twice during the week!


For the meatballs:
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/4 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
(Grandmom used a mixture of beef, veal and pork, but I think ground chicken
 is not only healthier, but more flavorful as well!)
2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Locatelli cheese
(grate a little for broth and to sprinkle on top once served)
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix with your hands and roll into small balls!
Two ways to cook! Saute meatballs in frying pan, (caution - you may start eating them!) OR, bake on parchment lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.  
For the soup:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots),
3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), 
1 12 oz. can of chopped tomatoes with juice

2 pounds of chicken thighs (removing skin from half the package)
1/4 cup of freshly grated Locatelli cheese
1 stalk of escarole, cleaned and chopped (Do not use spinach, it is just too strong)

Start by just slightly "sweating" vegetables in the olive oil.  Add the chicken and tomatoes, then add enough water to cover about 2/3 of pot. Season with salt or add 3 chicken bouillon cubes (as I do) after it reaches a soft boil. Lower heat, partially cover, and let it simmer for about an 1.5 - 2 hrs. When finished, drain all ingredients through colander into clean pot. Pull some meat from the skinned thighs and add back to broth. Discard remaining ingredients. Bring broth back to soft boil, add chopped escarole and cooked meatballs, and let simmer another 20 minutes or so.

Pasta! While you can add any type of noodle that you prefer, the traditional pasta for this dish is Anici de Pepe. They are like tiny little balls that, if spilled, will take forever to clean up! Cook about 3/4 of the box in salted water, drain and add to soup. Cooking them directly in the broth is doable, but adds a starchiness that you just don't need. 

And there you have it! Serve in your prettiest bowls and top with freshly grated cheese. It does take a little more effort than your average homemade soup, but is so worth the it. And since you probably won't be having this at your next wedding, making Italian Wedding Soup for yourself is a well deserved treat!

PS. To be honest, today's post is also the result of a nasty spring cold that has taken over my chest. Homemade chicken soup on the stove is just what is needed to get me through! In fact, I am adding crushed red pepper flakes to meatball mixture. It can only help! Mangiare!

Photos by ImageGoggle and Jo Ann Phelps


  1. Italian soup looks yummy. Thanks for giving this recipe. I will try this at weekend. I like various cuisine food very much. I like Italian culture, tradition, Italian food etc . Last summer I have visited Italy as well as I have visited italian restaurant. I like to drive Italian road at night . I have enjoyed Italian food very much.

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