my big (pot of) Italian wedding


This week was my rotation in Winter Soup Club.  I tossed around a couple ideas-- I've been craving onion soup like nobody's business, and I've had clam chowder on my agenda for quite some time.  But neither seemed right for the still-fall-and-not-quite-wintry weather we've been enjoying.  And then it came to me: Italian wedding soup!  

No one makes a meatball like my birthmom does, and I've used her recipe a bunch of times.  But for soup club, I decided to try something different-- turkey meatballs!  Not only cheaper and healthier, but I also had some nostalgia invested in this soup notion.  I remembered a Progresso soup I was obsessed with as a child.... 

CHICKARINA!!

I could never get enough of this stuff!!  Now, as an adult, I realize it was a kid-friendly version of Italian wedding soup.   


Italian Wedding Soup w/ Turkey Meatballs
(a very loose adaptation of Ina Garten's soup..or at least her turkey meatballs)
serves...many, depending how much broth you make and meatballs you take

chicken stock:
chicken bones
carrot, celery, and onion ends
fresh salt and pepper to taste
parsley and oregano to taste (optional)
as much water as you've got time

meatballs:
1 1/4 lb ground turkey (I used Jennie-O extra lean)
1 1/4 lb Italian seasoned ground turkey (I used Jennie-O lean because I couldn't find turkey sausage)
about 1 1/2 fresh bread crumbs, crushed
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped
6 T milk
2 large eggs, beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

soup:
4 T olive oil
2 c minced onion
2 c diced carrots
2 c diced celery
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 cups small pasta (I used tubini)
1 head endive, roughly chopped
1 head escarole, roughly chopped
extra Parmesan cheese for serving


1. Prepare chicken stock however you prefer.  I like to use chicken bones (usually stowed away in the freezer for just the occasion, or you can ask your butcher for some), as well as veggie ends (also a good thing to keep in the freezer for times like these).  I then just boil the crap out of it and keep adding more water once it reduces.  Keep this going for as long as you can for a rich, fortified broth.  Season to perfection with salt and pepper.

2. Fresh breadcrumbs make all the difference.  Thanks to Central Market, I took a shortcut and used store-toasted crumbs made from high quality bread.  Grind them in the food processor, then combine crumbs, meats, Parmesan, parsley, egg, and milk in a large bowl.  Get really up close and personal with this mix, kneading it with your hands until it's one consistency.

Carson suggested we make one giant ball.  But how could I take him seriously in that sweatshirt?

meatballs for miles

3.  Drop one-inch meatballs onto a parchment lined pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  This recipe made about 50 medium-sized meatballs!


4. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add diced carrots, cooking until tender (5-6 minutes).  Next, saute the celery and onions until softened.  Add the veggies into your (now strained) broth.  Meanwhile, you best begin boiling the pasta.  

endive

5. Add golden-brown baked meatballs to the soup, followed by roughly chopped endive and escarole.  Simmer everything into tasty harmony and season as necessary.  Strain pasta, once cooked, and add to soup when serving (I like to keep the pasta entirely separate, not only for less-gluten-friendly friends, but also because it tends to soak up the broth and expand if it sits in the soup).


6.  You simply must garnish each hot serving with more fresh Parmesan.  Lastly, mangia!

*I found the meatballs to be a bit dry on their own but absolutely perfect used in this soup.  They soaked up the broth and held together without becoming the least bit soggy.  I also loved the addition of tubini pasta-- it's the same shape typically used in pasta e fagioli and added just the right cylindrical touch to this very texturally-rich soup.

Better'n Chickarina! 

...or IS it?  I might just have to see if they still sell it these days.. ;)