Spicy meatballs with fresh greens and a little pasta make for a full meal with this Italian Wedding Soup.
Although popularized in modern Italian-American restaurants, “wedding soup” has nothing to do with nuptials, Italian or otherwise. The name derives from the Italian phrase minestra maritata (literally, “married soup”) and is a reference to the once-uncommon marriage of meat and greens in a dish.
The original versions of this soup were historically popular in the Lazio and Campania regions of southern Italy, and contained a greater meat-to-vegetable ratio than today’s soups. Prepared meatballs or sausage are the most common proteins now due to the relatively short cook time, which is not sufficient to tenderize larger cuts of meat.
Pork or pork sausage is used here but the meatballs can be fashioned from ground beef, chicken, turkey or any combination. Likewise, the greens included can be anything dark and available such as spinach, escarole, collards, kale, cabbage or chard. The pasta or pastina included can be any small shape like orzo, ditalini or stelle.
Other than the meat and greens, a beaten egg is swirled in at the end for added appearance and texture as it curdles into a ribbon in the hot broth. Substitute rice or even couscous if appropriate pasta is not available.
Serve with toasted garlic bread and herb butter.
Italian Wedding Soup
4 c chicken stock
1 bunch greens (spinach, escarole, chard, collard)
½ yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
½ c orzo
red pepper flakes
For the meatballs:
1 lb Italian sausage
½ c breadcrumbs
2 T Parmesan
1 t oregano
1 Make the meatballs: Combine the meatball ingredients and work by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Form into ¾-inch balls (should make 20 to 30) and briefly fry with a little oil in a hot pan until browned on all sides. Set aside.
2 Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Add to a pot over medium heat with a little oil and sauté until soft, about 5 min. Add the stock and bring back to a boil.
3 Tear the greens by hand into bite-sized pieces and add to the stock. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 min. Add the meatballs and pasta (along with 1 c water) and simmer for 10 min more.
4 Beat the remaining egg together with the shredded cheese and add to the hot soup, stirring constantly to form ribbons. Finish with red pepper flakes and fresh lemon juice, and season to taste.