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Recipe: Simmer small meatballs, tiny pasta, and greens for a nourishing Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup.Sheryl Julian

Serves 4

Italian Wedding Soup has nothing to do with Italian weddings. The real name is minestra maritata ("married soup") because the meat scraps and wild greens, as the pot was originally made, went so well together. The soup is an old Neapolitan specialty but versions of it have been made since ancient times, when cooks collected wild greens along the countryside and simmered them with a meaty bone in plenty of liquid. A modern wedding soup might be made with pork and beef meatballs and all kinds of hearty greens, including escarole or cabbage. This lighter version is made with turkey meatballs and baby spinach or kale. Find a tiny pasta such as orzo (rice-shaped grains), ditalini (small tubes), acini de pepe (miniscule rounds), farfalline (small bow ties) and use your own homemade stock if you have some on hand. The meatballs are simmered briefly in a pot of water, removed with a slotted spoon, and the pasta is cooked in the same water. Use that pot -- no sense dirtying another -- to heat the chicken stock with the pasta and meatballs, then the greens. Sprinkle bowls with grated Parmesan for a nourishing, filling, pleasing meal.

2slices firm white toasting bread (with crusts) or 1 small soft dinner roll, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
½cup milk
1 egg
1pound ground dark meat turkey
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1clove garlic, grated
1teaspoon salt, or more to taste
½teaspoon black pepper
½cup freshly grated Parmesan
½cup tiny pasta, such as orzo (rice-shaped grains), ditalini (small tubes), acini de pepe (tiny rounds), farfalline (small bow ties)
2quarts chicken stock
3cups packed baby spinach or kale
Extra freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)

1. In a large bowl (it will hold all the meatball ingredients later), combine the bread or roll and milk. Work with your hands to crush the cubes and make a paste. Set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Add the egg, turkey, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. With your hands, work the mixture until it is thoroughly blended.

3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Have on hand a bowl of cold water. Dip your hands into the bowl of water. Use a spoon to scoop out small mounds of the meatball mixture and shape with your hands into 1-inch balls. Set them on the baking sheet. Continue shaping meatballs mixture until it is all used. You should have about 36.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Use a spoon to add half the meatballs a few at a time. Return the water to a boil and simmer the meatballs for 4 minutes, or until they are cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove them from the pot and transfer to a large plate. Return the water to a boil. Cook the remaining meatballs in the same way, removing them from the pot when they are done.

5. Return the water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring once or twice, for 6 minutes, or until the pasta is almost tender. Drain the pasta into a colander and return it to the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and cook for 3 minutes, or until they are heated through.

6. Add the spinach or kale and submerge it in the liquid with the back of a ladle. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Ladle into bowls and serve with Parmesan and crusty bread.

Sheryl Julian

Serves 4

Italian Wedding Soup has nothing to do with Italian weddings. The real name is minestra maritata ("married soup") because the meat scraps and wild greens, as the pot was originally made, went so well together. The soup is an old Neapolitan specialty but versions of it have been made since ancient times, when cooks collected wild greens along the countryside and simmered them with a meaty bone in plenty of liquid. A modern wedding soup might be made with pork and beef meatballs and all kinds of hearty greens, including escarole or cabbage. This lighter version is made with turkey meatballs and baby spinach or kale. Find a tiny pasta such as orzo (rice-shaped grains), ditalini (small tubes), acini de pepe (miniscule rounds), farfalline (small bow ties) and use your own homemade stock if you have some on hand. The meatballs are simmered briefly in a pot of water, removed with a slotted spoon, and the pasta is cooked in the same water. Use that pot -- no sense dirtying another -- to heat the chicken stock with the pasta and meatballs, then the greens. Sprinkle bowls with grated Parmesan for a nourishing, filling, pleasing meal.

2slices firm white toasting bread (with crusts) or 1 small soft dinner roll, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
½cup milk
1 egg
1pound ground dark meat turkey
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1clove garlic, grated
1teaspoon salt, or more to taste
½teaspoon black pepper
½cup freshly grated Parmesan
½cup tiny pasta, such as orzo (rice-shaped grains), ditalini (small tubes), acini de pepe (tiny rounds), farfalline (small bow ties)
2quarts chicken stock
3cups packed baby spinach or kale
Extra freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)

1. In a large bowl (it will hold all the meatball ingredients later), combine the bread or roll and milk. Work with your hands to crush the cubes and make a paste. Set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Add the egg, turkey, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. With your hands, work the mixture until it is thoroughly blended.

3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Have on hand a bowl of cold water. Dip your hands into the bowl of water. Use a spoon to scoop out small mounds of the meatball mixture and shape with your hands into 1-inch balls. Set them on the baking sheet. Continue shaping meatballs mixture until it is all used. You should have about 36.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Use a spoon to add half the meatballs a few at a time. Return the water to a boil and simmer the meatballs for 4 minutes, or until they are cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove them from the pot and transfer to a large plate. Return the water to a boil. Cook the remaining meatballs in the same way, removing them from the pot when they are done.

5. Return the water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring once or twice, for 6 minutes, or until the pasta is almost tender. Drain the pasta into a colander and return it to the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and cook for 3 minutes, or until they are heated through.

6. Add the spinach or kale and submerge it in the liquid with the back of a ladle. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Ladle into bowls and serve with Parmesan and crusty bread.Sheryl Julian


Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.