Italian Wedding Soup

It’s time to up the ante on chicken noodle soup, and this Italian Wedding Soup will do it.  Homemade chicken meatballs (seasoned with Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheeses)  bob among carrots, celery, dill, spinach, and pasta in a rich chicken broth.  Don’t be intimidated by the homemade meatballs- they’re easy to make, and if you can make cookies, you can make meatballs.Italian Wedding Soup- Ina Garten

Italian Wedding Soup

(from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics)
Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

Meatballs

3/4 pound ground chicken [Ground chicken thighs make juicier meatballs than ground chicken breast.]
1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed [Trader Joe’s has a good selection of chicken sausage.  I used spicy Italian chicken sausage because I like it when things have a little kick to them.]
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soup

2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup 1/4-inch diced carrots (3 carrots)
3/4 cup (1/4-inch diced celery (2 stalks)
10 cups homemade chicken stock [I don’t have the time or patience to make homemade chicken stock. I love Penzey’s Chicken Soup Base and always use it when I need chicken stock.  I refer to it as “liquid gold”.]
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars [I had neither in my pantry, so I used elbow macaroni.]
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Meatballs

  1. Place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, and combine gently with a fork.
  2. With a teaspoon, drop 1- to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.)
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Soup

  1. While the meatballs are baking, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot.
  2. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the chicken stock and wine, and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the pasta to the simmering broth, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender.
  5. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup, and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in the fresh spinach, and cook for 1 minute until the spinach is just wilted.
  7. Ladle into soup bowls, and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan cheese.

Soup of the Day

Sorry for the poor picture quality (it was dark out and I couldn’t figure out how to balance my flash), but I couldn’t pass up sharing this sign outside of a Korean restaurant near the ballroom I train at in Los Angeles.   I couldn’t figure out if they were being clever or if it was a translation issue, as its not uncommon for Koreatown restaurants and shops to have strangely translated names, signs, advertisements, etc (as evidence by other stores I’ve seen such as  a restaurant called “Made in Mom” and a cafe called “Hairbucks”).

IMG_3837

Hearty Split Pea Soup

Split pea soup - Curtis Stone 2

When I was a kid, my family would take road trips, and along the highway, big billboards would provide a mileage countdown to arrival at Pea Soup Andersens (http://www.peasoupandersens.net/).  I remember getting excited about their “all you can eat” pea soup, but many years later I can’t remember how it tasted.  I’ve always shunned pea soup from a can, so it’s been a long time since I’ve fulfilled my craving for pea soup.  Curtis Stone’s recipe for Hearty Split Pea Soup was just the motivation I needed for making a big batch of soup from scratch.  This version is not thick (like I remembered the pea soup at Andersen’s to be), and the chopped fresh veggies give it more multidimensional texture than the typical pureed consistency.  The recipe made so much that I’ve frozen a few servings for a cold, rainy day.  I couldn’t find ham hock in the grocery store, so I used a smoked ham shank that was several ounces larger than what the recipe called for.  I don’t think the substitution made much of a difference, but I didn’t use very much salt as the ham shank was very salty to begin with.

Hearty Split Pea Soup

(from What’s for Dinner? by Curtis Stone – http://www.curtisstone.com/books;  My comments are in italics in [   ]. )
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces [I used 3 carrots because I like carrots]
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 large sprigs of fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound green split peas
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth [I used chicken soup base from Penzey’s Spices-https://www.penzeys.com/online-catalog/chicken-soup-base/c-24/p-1628/pd-s]
1 14 oz ham hock [my grocery store did not have ham hock so I used an 18 oz smoked ham shank]

Directions

  1. Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and thyme [put the entire sprig into the pot], and cook, stirring occasionaly, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender.  Season with salt and pepper [I did not add much salt as I knew that my ham shank was plenty salty].
  2. Stir in the split peas, 8 cups of water [I used 7 1/2 cups of water because it didn’t want to soup to be too thin], and the broth.  Add the ham hock, cover the pot, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until the ham hock meat is tender.
  4. Reduce the heat under the pot to very low.  Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the ham hock to a cutting board.  Let stand for about 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat, discarding the skin and the bone, and chop into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Stir the ham into the soup.  Remove the thyme stems, and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper [I did not need to add extra salt].

Cooking Time: [It took me at least 2 1/2 hours to make this recipe (and I don’t feel like I’m particularly slow), but the original recipe says that it should only take about 2 hours and 10 minutes.]

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