I needed to prove my worth in the kitchen after last week's not so great new recipes, so I knew Ina Garten was the person to turn to. I personally can't stand her Barefoot Contessa show on Food Network, but I adore the two cookbooks of hers that I own. I can't remember making any recipes of hers that I didn't enjoy, so I pulled out the Back to Basics cookbook when it was time to plan this week's recipes. I knew right away which recipe was perfect for a January night at home with Joe... Italian Wedding Soup!
This is a type of soup I'd never tried before, because it has meatballs in the soup, and meatballs are usually made with beef. But Ina's recipe is different, and calls for a combination of chicken sausage and ground chicken. Perfection!
The meatballs were baked, and turned out tender and full of flavor. The pasta added some heft (I don't like wimpy soup), and the spinach made it seem nice and healthy (which really it was!). I think the best part of the soup was the addition of minced fresh dill, which gave it such a fresh, herby flavor. We ate Ribiola Due Latte Italian cheese from Whole Foods with the soup, with bread and roasted garlic. The meal paired nicely with the tripel style beer that Joe had gotten for Christmas, from the Boulevard Brewery Smokestack series. It's high quality KC beer, and I'm bummed out we can't get it here in Chicago. It does make it a treat when we get a chance to down some!
Italian Wedding Soup
from Back to Basics, by Ina Garten
Serves 6-8 (we did a half recipe, and it easily serves 4)
For the meatballs:
* 3/4 pound ground chicken
* 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
* 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
* 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
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.
This picture illustrates the large size of my wonderful new stockpot... no more boiling pasta in my Le Creuset dutch oven!
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.