I’m not sure if I should start this post with a long honest “Brrrrrrr,” or that classic holiday song “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Either way, it sure is cold in North Carolina and this weather requires serious comfort food to warm you up. Monday night I needed a recipe that I could make after a long days work and arrived at Ina’s Italian Wedding Soup. Like all of Ina’s recipes, she recommends using homemade chicken stock – which I obviously did not have time to throw together – so I made a couple of shortcuts thanks in part by my local Fresh Market!
I’m a big fan of the Fresh Market for a number of reasons: 1) they are headquartered right in my backyard (Greensboro, NC)! 2) They have a number of quality pantry items including a great boxed chicken stock which was a tasty substitute for homemade 3) their meat department is set up so you can get exactly what you want. I picked up 3/4 pound of ground turkey (which i switched for ground chicken) and just two italian chicken sausages. I never use the quarter pound of meat leftover in the freezer and I hate to waste! These last two points come in handy when you are cooking for just one or two people – or want to find special ingredients in a snap.
I made a couple changes in Ina’s recipe which I’ve included below in italics. I personally love a squeeze of lemon juice in any chicken soup – you can make this addition to your taste. While I was worried that the pasta might become too mushy after a couple of day – but the soup actually got better everyday. And the chicken meat balls are absolutely amazing!
Enjoy – and stay warm!
For the meatballs:
- 3/4 pound ground chicken (I used ground turkey)
- 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
- 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (I used a full half cup of Pecorino and skipped the Parmesan)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 cup minced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 10 cups homemade chicken stock (I used good quality Fresh Market chicken stock)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
- 12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
- (I added the juice of one lemon at the end)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the meatballs, 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. 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.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.