Recipe: Chunky Italian Wedding Soup with Pasta

Recipe: Chunky Italian Wedding Soup with Pasta

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Casey Barber
Oct 2, 2015
(Image credit: Casey Barber)

Woe to a wife who loves a scalding-hot bowl of chowder when her husband's policy on all soups — as well as any other hot liquids — is the same as Kenneth Ellen Parcell's: "That's the devil's temperature." I don't want to provoke the devil in my own kitchen, but I did find a loophole in this anti-hot liquid contract: Dan does like chili and other stew-like meals that are chunky enough to be scooped up without leaving too much brothiness in the bowl.

(Image credit: Casey Barber)

That's how I get away with serving him soup that's not really a soup at all. If you've ever made Italian wedding soup, you've seen how the tiny pasta spheres, known as pastina or acini di pepe, are almost magically inflatable. They look minuscule when you throw them into the soup to cook, but expand mightily to many times their size.

If you are broth-averse, you can cook this soup the whole way through, adding the pasta before you portion it out and freeze it to let the pasta soak up all the broth and tomato juice as it rests. Voila! The soup turns into a hearty pasta meal.

But if you have no beef with soup, stop and freeze this recipe before you add the pasta. Thaw and reheat, cooking the pasta in the soup just before serving, to keep things on the brothy side. Either way, everyone wins.

Chunky Tomato Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 6 to 8

For the meatballs:
1/3 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound ground beef

For the soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 large celery stalks, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 small yellow onion, minced
6 cups chicken broth, plus 1 to 2 additional cups if desired
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 head escarole or 1 bunch spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces (1/2 pound) small pasta, such as acini di pepe
2 large eggs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Kosher salt as needed

Make the meatballs: Whisk the breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, minced garlic, pepper, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the beef and mix with your hands until incorporated. The blend will be closer to a meatloaf situation than a typical meatball; I like them to be a little sturdier as they simmer in the sauce.

Roll into small balls about 1 inch in diameter — you'll have about 6 dozen when you're done. Place the meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet as you roll and set aside while you start making the soup.

Make the soup: Heat the oil in a large (6- to 8- quart) stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the celery, carrots, and onion, along with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until the vegetables are just starting to turn translucent and tender.

Pour in 6 cups broth and the can of diced tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and cover to return the liquid to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Uncover the pot and stir in the escarole a few handfuls at a time, letting each handful start to wilt and make more room in the pot before adding the next. Return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes more, until the greens are tender.

If you're planning to freeze the soup, stop cooking the soup after the greens are tender. See below for freezing and thawing instructions.

With the soup simmering, add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes until al dente. Add 1 to 2 cups additional broth if you prefer a more brothy soup.

While the soup simmers, whisk the eggs with the cheese and black pepper. When the pasta is still slightly underdone, pour the whisked egg into the simmering soup, drizzling evenly across the top of the soup to create a thin layer of egg. Let cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, until the egg is cooked through and pale. Stir the strands of egg into the soup.

Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

  • Let cool slightly, then ladle into freezer-safe containers or zip-top bags and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw the soup, bring it to a simmer, and continue with the next cooking steps.
(Image credit: Casey Barber)

Find Casey's Book:

Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food by Casey Barber

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