Italian Wedding Soup is one of my favorite fall dishes. Tiny, tender meatballs, fresh spinach slivers, orzo and a Parmesan cheese finish—it’s cozy and filling, yet still manages to feel healthy and invigorating. It’s also a great use of the fresh spinach now emerging from local farms (I got some on Saturday in my Inglewood Farms CSA box). And finally, it’s affordable. You only need a pound of ground meat, some aromatic vegetables and herbs, a little dried pasta and some chicken stock.
A note on the cute little baby meatballs that this classic soup calls for: Be sure to make them small. Each scoop should be bite-sized—only about 1 ½ teaspoons—and don’t overcook them. Fifteen minutes in the oven should do it, and they will continue to cook in the broth. I use ground dark-meat turkey here, but the classic combination is equal parts ground chuck and pork. I’ve also used ground veal, and it’s delicious, too.
And a note on the breadcrumbs: I love good bread—we always have several different loaves around the kitchen. When I reach the end of a loaf, I toss the remnants into the food processor to make fresh breadcrumbs. I add them to a food storage box that I keep in the freezer.
Italian Wedding Soup is easy enough to pull off on weeknights, and because it’s fairly light, it goes great with rich sandwiches like gooey, four-cheese grilled cheese sandwiches or roasted eggplant and mozzarella panini.
Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound ground dark meat turkey (or ½-pound ground chuck and ½-pound ground pork)
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
¼ cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup chopped celery, leaves included
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups (32 ounces) chicken stock, preferably homemade but store bought is fine
2 cups fresh spinach, stems removed, cut into slivers
4 ounces orzo or any small pasta
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the turkey, bread crumbs, pepper, salt, basil, parsley and egg in a bowl. Form very small meatballs. Use a teaspoon to form, and make them no bigger than about 1 ½ teaspoons in size. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the onion, celery and garlic. Sauté until soft for about 5-7 minutes. Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring it to a low boil. Add the spinach, cooked meatballs and orzo. Cook for 10 minutes and serve immediately. Garnish with the Parmesan cheese.
Maggie Heyn Richardson is a regular 225 contributor and the author of the food history book Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey. Reach her at hungryforlouisiana.com.