Few things in life are more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup. Our mom’s legendary soups were the ones that waited for us after a frosty walk home from school; warmed us to our core after neighborhood snow angel contests; soothed our souls after the big breakups and graced our family table for holiday celebrations.
Italian ‘wedding soup’ is a popular soup here in America but it might surprise you to know that its origins have zippo to do with weddings. Its original name, minestra maritata, translates to ‘married soup’, a reference to the fact that you are marrying the greens to the stock. This soup has deep roots in Naples, from where our paternal grandmother was born.
I suspect our mother learned how to make this soup from her mother-in-law and over the years, made it her own. (For which I can almost bet our grandmother was not pleased. 🙂 ) Her version was a simple one – homemade broth with little meatballs, greens and eggs. She typically would use whatever greens were available, usually escarole or at times, spinach.
With the summer warmth now fading to cooler temps, I am finding my way back into the kitchen to bring comfort to my restless soul, which like so many of you, is ready to break free of this pandemic. A bit of quiet kitchen time during this storm of uncertainty is as therapeutic for me as my morning meditation.
May it give you the same comfort. Grab that stockpot, turn on some tunes that may soothe your soul, and savor the process of turning the simplest of ingredients into a deeply satisfying meal.
Baci a tutti,
Mom’s Italian Wedding Soup
Our mom’s version of Italian wedding soup – little meatballs simmered in broth with greens and eggs. Comfort in a bowl.
For the meatballs:
- 1 small onion, minced or grated
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 pounds ground pork (or mixture of ground pork and beef)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
- Approximately 12 cups homemade chicken broth (can substitute low-sodium canned broth)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- About 6 cups of escarole (can substitute other greens; baby spinach works great too; I also sometimes use a mixture of spinach and escarole)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Crusty bread
For the meatballs: Mix the onion, garlic, egg, salt together in a large bowl. Add the ground pork (or mixture of pork and beef, if using), Parmesan and a few grinds of pepper. Mix together. (Cook’s note: I usually fry up a little meatball at this stage in order to be sure I have the seasoning right. This gives you a chance to adjust seasoning before you shape them all!) Using your hands, shape into little meatballs – approximately 1 inch in size. Place on cookie sheet or tray.
For the soup: Bring broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add the meatballs to the broth and cook until they are almost cooked through (about 5 minutes). Spoon any foam off the top.
Whisk the eggs and cheese in a small bowl to blend. Using a wooden spoon, stir the soup in a circular motion. Slowly add the egg mixture to the soup, using the spoon to gently stir the eggs into thin threads in the broth.
Add greens to the broth. Cook until wilted – about 3 minutes.
Add salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve with plenty of Parmesan cheese and crusty Italian bread.