When it comes to soups, I can easily say I have a hands-down favorite. My vote for this soup is heavily influenced by nostalgia; it was one of the first real meals my mother fed me when I was a baby. The legend is that I'd slurp it loudly and the broth would dribble down my neck and into my clothes.
The recipe was handed down to my mother, and adapted at each stop, from a man named Fran, whose daughter was my first babyhood friend. I don't really remember Fran — he passed away when we were still tiny — but he lives within me every time I make this soup. Now I feed it to everyone — from my own little person, who also slurps and dribbles it, to Saturday night company, who usually use a napkin.
We always call it Italian Escarole Soup, but it's also known as zuppa di scarola, or Italian Wedding Soup because it is a traditional course at Italian nuptials. It is simple to prepare, but has enough flourishes — herby meatballs and a last-minute addition of cheesy egg ribbons — to make it special enough for guests.
Italian Wedding Soup is highly adaptable; try other greens like kale (as I did in the photo above) or chard, add grated lemon rind to the meatballs and some lemon juice to the broth for brightness, or consider spicing it up with some ground red pepper flakes added with the onions and garlic.
3/4 pound ground organic meat (chicken, turkey, pork or beef)
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 bunch greens trimmed and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 6 lightly packed cups)
Combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of each cheese, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, then form the mixture into 3/4-inch to 1 1/2-inch balls. You should have 20 to 30 meatballs, depending on how large you form them.
In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, and cook, turning, until browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes. (If they are still a bit pink in the middle, don't worry, they will continue to cook in the broth.) Set them aside on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
In a 4 to 6 quart soup pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until onions are tender and garlic is soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the greens, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 eggs and remaining cheeses in small bowl and stir with a fork to blend. Slow pour the egg mixture into hot soup, stirring constantly. Cover and simmer just until egg bits are set, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, maybe even a squirt of lemon juice, and serve immediately in a low bowl if possible so the meatballs are visible.
To re-heat, simmer gently over low heat.
More Soups from Soup Week at The Kitchn
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)