You know you couldn't help yourself singing the title with your lip curled. It's ok, I won't judge you.
I mean, honestly, don't we all love a little bad boy Billy Idol every now and again?
What's not to love of the British 80s heart throb?
Not familiar with the iconic rocker? Let me introduce you, as he introduced himself, when I saw him in May, 2023(age 67) in my home town of Moon Township, PA, "ladies and gentlemen, (I'm) Billy Fucking Idol!" 🤘🏼
If you personally know me, CarolOfMoon, you know one of my love languages is food.
Are you hungry?
Can I cook for you?
Have you eatten?
Can I feed you?
Maybe it's my mothering instinct, to care for, nurture and feed those I care about. Maybe it's my ego-- hearing people tell me how much they enjoy the food I make, gives me a surge of dopamine. Maybe it's my Virgo nature of service to others. Maybe it's me trying to emulate and keep my cousin's spirit alive. That's who I learned it all from.
Any way you cut it, I just love cooking for people I care about.
Back to Billy Idol and (white) Wedding Soup.
So of course when one of my kids is sick, I stop and make chicken broth for them. A restorative broth to help get them back to good health. Or maybe just feel warm and fuzzy. And loved. Yeah, make them feel loved.
But sometimes I elevate it and make it a hearty meal to not only feed their bodies, but also their souls. And why not as we have cool, crisp mornings and evenings here in Autumn in Western Pennsylvania.
Italian wedding soup is perfect for doing both!
As with any other Italian dishes, variations abound. Dependent on the region and time of year, each Wedding Soup can change drastically. And from country to country, change even more. Italian wedding soup in Italy is completely different than it's American cugine.
Originating in southern Italy, "minestra maritata" is a classic example of cucina povera, "the poor kitchen". The main ingredients vary by region but typically include undesirable or tough, hard-to-cook vegetables and scraps from butchering meat making it a true peasant dish.
The soup dates back to the 15th or 16th century, a time before the Columbian Exchange when New World vegetables such as the tomato were first introduced to Europe. The vegetables are traditionally more bitter than sweet, and the weed-like plants grow close to year-round in the southern end of the peninsula. For this reason, wedding soup is mostly considered a winter meal.
What we have come to know and love as Italian Wedding Soup, is actually an ancient Neapolitan soup called minestra maritata, which translates to “married soup”, not actual soup being served at a wedding. It refers to the 'marriage' of bits of inexpensive meat and leafy greens which make up the main ingredients.
But what we know and love in America as wedding soup is thanks to the Italian immigrants who brought their traditions to the New World, and rather than eliminating the recipe because they didn't have the ingredients of home, changed it to make it their own.
The tiny meatballs frequently associated with wedding soup are more customary in the United States. The meat in most Italian versions of wedding soup includes chunks of sausage, pork ribs, pork skin, salami, or in some regions, intestine. And of course, many Italian recipes do include meatballs ranging in size from as small as a grape to as large as golf balls. The intent of the recipe is to use the available food and prevent waste.
Cooking Class with CaroL
Things to Consider
Meatballs: The stars of the show, these tender, seasoned meatballs add depth and protein to the soup. Begin by crafting perfectly seasoned meatballs using a blend of ground beef, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and aromatic herbs. Lightly brown then braise them to perfection for a savory flavor boost.
Broth: A hearty chicken broth forms the base, infused with the essence of simmered vegetables. Simmer chicken broth with carrots, celery, and onions, allowing the flavors to meld. A touch of garlic and a bouquet garni of fresh herbs elevate the broth to a fragrant masterpiece.
Greens: Fresh spinach or escarole adds a vibrant touch, enhancing both the visual appeal and nutritional value. Add fresh escarole (my green of choice) or spinach to the simmering broth, allowing it to wilt gently. The vibrant greens lend color, flavor, and a nutritional punch.
Pasta: Tiny pasta shapes like acini di pepe or orzo bring a delightful texture to the soup. In a separate pot, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add it to the soup, absorbing the savory essence and adding a comforting, chewy element to each spoonful.
Cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, the quintessential Italian touch, crowns the soup, adding a salty, nutty finish.
The Culinary Magic:
Serving with Love: Ladle the steaming soup into bowls, ensuring each portion receives a generous helping of meatballs, greens, and pasta. Finish with a sprinkle of freshly grated cheese and a crack of black pepper for that final touch of culinary amore. And of course, kissed by the chef, with love. ❤️
For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground beef or meatloaf mix (beef, pork and veal)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, dried basil and dried parsley
1 egg, beaten
For the Broth:
8 cups water
Back parts of 2 chickens including skin (no meat, yet)
3 carrots, cut into pieces
3 celery stalks, cut into pieces
1 large yellow onion, quartered. Skin on for richer, deeper color. Skin off for more clear broth
1 head of garlic cut in half
1 Tablespoon whole peppercorns
Bring to boil and simmer, uncovered for 1-2 hours. Let cool overnight. Do not skim off fat.
Strain broth to remove vegetables and chicken parts. Reserve the carrots for the soup. Discard all other ingredients except broth. Return to stovetop.
To the broth you will add
1 cup acini di pepe ***
2 cups fresh escarole, chopped***
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Thinly sliced or diced chicken breast***
Salt and pepper to taste
*** see instructions on how to prepare all components bringing them together in holy matrimony.
Prepare the Meatballs:
In a mixing bowl, combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs and spices, beaten egg. Mix until well combined. Don't overmix.
Shape the mixture into small meatballs.
Bake in over on 385F for 10 minutes.
Add acini di pepe or orzo pasta to a pot of boiling, salted water. Cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
Stir in the chopped fresh escarole, spinach or butter leafy green of your preference. Let the soup simmer for a few more minutes until the greens wilts and becomes tender. Add sliced carrots.
Add Chicken: Wait until just 5-10 before serving to add the thinly sliced chicken to the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add chicken directly on the broth. Allow to cook in simmering broth for 5-10 minutes. This will keep the meat tender.
Season and Serve:
I keep the components seperate initially, so I can portion all components equally and properly in each bowl, but you can add all ingredients together and laddie as traditional soup. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Remember that the Pecorino Romano cheese adds saltiness, so adjust accordingly.
Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each serving with grated cheese.