I was not at a wedding the first time I ever tasted Italian Wedding Soup. My recollection is surprisingly sharp, given I could not have been more than eight-years old. My mother, who was of Sicilian descent, had cousins in Warren, Michigan. My father drove the three of us up from Elyria, Ohio—a nearly three-hour trip—for a day visit, the purpose of which eludes me (here my memory is as dense as a cumulonimbus cloud). We gathered for a delicious dinner in the cousins’ formal dining room. I suspect there are two reasons why I remember any of this at all: First, we never traveled anywhere as a family, and second, I had never seen soup with what looked like cooked lettuce in it. It wasn’t lettuce at all, of course, but rather escarole. (I had no idea what that was, so the distinction was lost on me at the time.) All I knew was that the concoction was wonderful, punctuated by the most charming little meatballs I’d ever seen outside of a plate of spaghetti. This sense memory has stayed with me for years.
The name comes from the Italian word for soup, minestra, and the fact that the flavors “marry” well (maritata); hence, wedding soup. This recipe comes from my godmother Fannie, an excellent cook. You’ll remember meeting her in my story “Marlo & Me—Act I.” Aunt Fannie, thank you for sharing this recipe with me, and for allowing me to include it in the blog.
ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
2 pounds ground chuck or round steak
3/4 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
3 eggs, whipped with a whisk
1 Tablespoon parsley flakes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 minced clove of garlic
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, for frying
Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature for one and one-half hours.
Roll the meat into 1/2-inch balls. Brown in olive oil and drain on paper towels. (At this point the meatballs can be frozen for later use.)
One-half batch browned meatballs for 2 quarts broth. Freeze the rest of the meatballs for the next time. (If you wish to use the entire batch of meatballs, double the following quantities):
1 bunch escarole (fresh spinach can be substituted)
2 quarts chicken stock (I had homemade stock in my freezer)
Two eggs, beaten
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Wash, trim, and cut the escarole (or spinach) into small pieces. Place in a pot of boiling water for about eight minutes (five minutes if using spinach). Drain well.
Bring chicken broth to a boil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and reduce heat to simmer. Add the meatballs and escarole (or spinach) and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, allowing the flavors of the meatballs to infuse the broth. Add the beaten eggs and cheese. Serve immediately, with extra cheese at the table.