NOVEMBER 1, 2018

Italian Wedding Soup

Weeknight Cooking: Italian Wedding Soup

“Contrary to popular belief, the way to a man’s heart is not necessarily through his stomach.  His nose can be equally susceptible…” – Peter Mayle, from French Lessons

One brief step into the house of where a good soup is being made reveals much much more than the house with no soup.  The house of the soup has been transformed for at least one evening, until gradually, perhaps overnight, the memory, along with dynamic smells, disappear, and the eaters (smellers) must wait for the next hopeful batch.  

This last week I went on a good soup cooking frenzy: Hunter’s Minestrone (from Tyler Florence’s very useful home cook book Tyler’s Ultimate) Sunday, and later in the week a pot of Italian Wedding Soup.  Of the two, the Minestrone was a heartier,  more stew-like concoction, stocked full of sausage and very robust rigatoni pasta.  

Ditalini pasta

The Italian Wedding, on the other hand, was surprisingly pungent and filled the house, for at least a night, with a dreamy European pzazz.  I picked this recipe because the chief trio of components – the cheesy turkey meatballs, the wonderful ditalini pasta, and the escarole – would literally “marry” well together and would be eaten by adult and child alike.  

The recipe asks for meatballs that are made of ground turkey hand mixed with a 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, some pesto, and another 1/4 cup of grated parmesan.  These ended up an excellent choice.  The heaviness of the cheeses were nicely supported by the lighter type of meat.  There is no doubt that any fully marbleized beef could have sufficed, but the soup kept some lightness about it because of the meat choice, and then further, the short pasta, and then the head of escarole that dominates in a very good way each spoon full.  

The base of the soup is a standard mixture of onion and garlic, but with a solid dash of Italian seasoning and salt to taste.  It was at the point where the “upper” and the “lower” portions of the soup merged that created the very marriage that the Wedding Soup is named after.  The title doesn’t really have anything at all to do with the ceremony that one might assume, but instead it refers to the very thing that the cook finds out: the meatball, greens, pasta and broth serve as a wonderful meal in one.  This fine marriage is the nose of the soup, at once cheesy, green, meaty and enticing.