Tag Archives: Giada De Laurentiis

Italian wedding soup

2 Jan

Every New Year’s Eve the same group of friends gather together at my home for an epic food and drinkfest that begins sometime around 6 pm and lasts all the way past midnight. It’s a tradition that began more than a quarter century ago, when My Associate and I were still living in New York. We’ve moved a few times since then, as far away as Maine some years ago, and not a single year has this annual gathering been shelved.

This last time saw a new twist; a theme, actually. For reasons having nothing to do with me (I swear!) it was decided by the other members of our group that each of the many courses needed to feature a “ball” of some type. Scott and Giovani arrived carrying an orange-colored Le Creuset pan filled with fried codfish balls to get the festivities started, while My Associate was putting the finishing touches on the veal meatballs that would follow much later in the evening. Tom and Beth had only moments earlier removed a second batch of fluffy yellow cream puff shells from the oven, as they had been charged with providing the all-important dessert course hours later.

You get the idea.

All things round-shaped the whole night through.

My contribution to Ballfest ’17-18 was Italian Wedding Soup. I found this a fitting way to end the dreadfully divisive year we’ve all endured, as few traditional foods are as comforting and life-affirming as this one is.

The first thing you’ll need is 12 or so cups of chicken stock. A lot of people will tell you that a good packaged or canned stock is just fine but I’m not one of those people. Homemade stock is the only way to go and so that’s what you’re looking at here. (In case you’re interested this stock went like so: I sautéed an onion, a carrot, some celery and a little garlic in olive oil with a couple anchovy filets, then added six large bone-in chicken thighs. After the thighs browned a little I added around 16 cups of water, salt, a few peppercorns, and a good sized chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and then slow-simmered the stock for around four hours. Once at room temperature I strained out all the ingredients, leaving a tasty clear broth.)

To make the meatballs mix 1/2 pound of ground beef (around 80% lean) with 1/2 pound of ground pork. On a flat work surface form a ring with the meat and then fill the center with wet bread that’s been torn into small pieces.

On top of the bread add around 1/2 cup or more of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, an egg and some chopped parsley, then very gently mix everything together with your hands. It’s important not to be aggressive with your mixing, as that will make the meatballs tough.

This is how things should look after mixing. As you can see, it’s still possible to see pieces of bread. That’s a good thing. You don’t want a mix that looks perfectly ground and mixed together.

Always test the meat mixture for flavor and texture before rolling the entire batch into balls. In this case pop one meatball into the slow-simmering broth and cook for maybe five minutes. After tasting this meatball I added a little more cheese to the mix and also around 1/4 cup of whole milk to moisten things a bit more. This made for a good tasting — and very moist — meatball in the end.

I wound up with nearly 35 little meatballs, around an inch or so in diameter. (Again, you can see how lightly mixed the meat is; see the pieces of bread in some spots?)
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After you’ve formed all the meatballs add 1/2 cup of orzo to the broth and raise the heat to a rolling boil.

Then add an entire head of escarole that’s been chopped into small pieces. (If you can’t find escarole another green will do.)

After seven minutes or so lower the heat to a simmer and gently add all the meatballs. (It’s very important that you not cook the meatballs at high heat, as this will toughen them.)

While the meatballs are simmering mix two eggs and around 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl.

After the meatballs have simmered for around five minutes slowly stir the egg and cheese into the soup (again, at a slow simmer, not a rolling boil).

The egg and cheese will cook immediately, so turn off the heat right after they have been fully incorporated, like so. That’s all there is to it; the soup is ready to serve right away.

Except that topping off each bowl of soup with a little extra grated cheese is totally the way to go and so I strongly urge you to do so.

Happy New Year everybody!

I hope.