Italian Wedding Soup

Until I made this recipe, I had never tried Italian Wedding Soup.  I had some vague sense of it being a popular soup at Italian restaurants, but I confess I didn’t really know what it was until watching Ina make it for Jeffrey (Love Barefoot Contessa!  It makes me want to quit my job, get a beautiful house with a huge garden, and cook for my friends.  Guess their marketing is successful :P).  Ina’s recipe looked good, but I wasn’t feeling inspired enough to make it.  The problem was my relationship with soup.

Soup –> first course or sick-person food

Stew –> dinner

A broth-based dish just doesn’t seem to cut it for a meal.

Fast-forward to last month.  I was reading the March / April Cook’s Illustrated and saw they had an article on this soup.  Their description of the trial and error process in coming up with the recipe got me interested (extremely common occurrence while reading CI).  It sounded like the recipe was loaded with complex, well-developed flavors.  I also like the fact that it was posted in March – the new peak divorce month. :)

A rare occasion working with fennel

Really love when I get to use my faux Dutch oven

Helping to keep the meatballs moist and boost their flavor – bread, cream, Parmesan, onion, garlic.

This is a first for me.  Beating ground pork with baking soda and salt.  Apparently this evenly distributes the pork’s fat and moisture, and traps them in the protein structure.  Result – juicy meatballs

You could make the meatballs in advance and refrigerate.

Two bowls.  No divorce papers this March! :)

Italian Wedding Soup – Cook’s Illustrated – March & April 2012 (number 115)

Broth:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
  • 4 oz. ground pork
  • 4 oz. 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups water

Meatballs:

  • 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1″ pieces
  • 5 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tsp. finely grated onion
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 oz. ground pork
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 oz. 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 tsp. fresh minced oregano
  • 1 cup ditalini pasta
  • 12 oz. kale, stemmed and cut into 1/2″ pieces (6 cups)

Broth:
Heat onion, fennel, garlic, porcini, pork, beef, and bay leaf in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; cook, stirring frequently, until meats are no longer pink, about 5 min.  Add wine and Worcestershire; cook for 1 min.  Add both broths and water, bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 min.

Meatballs:
While broth simmers, combine bread, cream, Parmesan, onion, garlic, and pepper to taste in bowl; using fork, mash mixture to uniform paste.  Using stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat pork, baking powder, and salt on high-speed until smooth and pale, 1-2 min., scraping down bowl as needed.  Using moistened hands, form heaping teaspoons of meat mixture into smooth, round meatballs; you should have 30-35 meatballs.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Strain broth through fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  Wipe out Dutch oven and return broth to pot. (Broth could be refrigerated up to 3 days. Skim off fat before re-heating.)

Return broth to simmer over medium-high heat.  Add pasta and kale; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 min.  Add meatballs; return to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through and pasta is tender, 3-5 min.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield – 6 servings

– I subbed the following: an English muffin for the white bread (I wasn’t about to buy a whole loaf for just one slice.  That would be ridiculous), dried oregano for fresh, and a mini-orzo for ditalini.

– CI says to use a “rasp-style” grater to process the garlic and onion.  This worked well for the garlic, not so much for the onion (I wound up with just onion juice).  I finely chopped the onion and put in about 2 tbsp.  Anyone ever try this with success?

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