My Nana was Danish. And despite living in South Jersey for at least 40 years, did not really cook Italian. I honestly cannot remember one lasagna or one spaghetti and meatball meal at her table. And her recipe boxes, while filled with food from around the world, make no mention of anything remotely close to marinara.
However, I grew up completely fascinated by all things Italian. My father would share stories of his travels to Venice and Sicily during World War II. I would gaze endlessly at photos of Roman architecture, planning someday to write or build or create something Roman. Once a week we had spaghetti and meatballs–homemade slow cooked red sauce with homemade meatballs. And Mike and I honeymooned in Rome, savoring the food, the wine, the architecture, the churches and the leather. I love Italian!
Italian Wedding Soup is a classic and so many of my friends, whose Nana’s were actually Italian, shared their tips and tricks for this recipe. My recipe is like a wedding of all that heritage and knowledge and culinary genius.
Some notes: I had a big bag of baby spinach, so I used it in place of escarole. I also used orzo, but as Mike’s Aunt Lydia suggested, those tiny little ball pastas, Acici de Pepe, would be excellent in place of the orzo. One old school addition is to drop a couple eggs beaten with Parmesan cheese into the hot soup and stir with a spoon until thin strands appear. I did not do this for my recipe, but think I will try the next go around.
3 large carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups orzo, cooked as per package
4 cups baby spinach
For the meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 clove of garlic, grated
1/2 Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 grated locatelli or parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
2 T. Olive oil
Grated locatelli or Parmesan cheese for serving
1. In a large soup pot, heat about 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, garlic and onion. Cook, stirring, until onion is softened and garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make meatballs. Combine beef, eggs, garlic, breadcrumbs and cheese in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Form mixture into small meatballs (1/4 – 1/2 inch in diameter).
4. In a large frying pan, over medium heat, warm 2 T. of olive oil. Gently add meatballs to frying pan and brown on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to remove meatballs from frying pan to simmering broth.
5. Heat meatballs in broth until cooked through about 10-15 minutes.
6. Stir in orzo and baby spinach. Stirring to wilt spinach. Top with a sprinkle of locatelli cheese.
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