This is one of my favorite soups to order at restaurants and buy at the grocery store but surprisingly I had never attempted it at home until this week. I’m learning that what I cook and when is based on an innate desire to answer the ever challenging question “What am I hungry for?” Many different factors can influence this, from the weather to my mood to what I’ve recently eaten and am wanting more of. I do try to have a balanced diet but really if it’s not a food I want to eat, I won’t enjoy it nearly as much as I would if it was a food I was craving. I also think there is something to anticipating a favorite food and all the work you put into preparing it that makes it pretty special too.
For this recipe, I would say that there is a considerable amount of prep work involved (making the meatballs, thinly slicing the spinach, dicing the carrots, mincing the onion) so if you are not into that, you might consider doing it in parts or having a helper. The meatballs can be made the night before and refrigerated so that they can just be thrown in the soup when you’re ready. I’ve delegated kitchen tasks many a time as the work not only goes faster with a second set of hands but it’s also nice to have the company.
For a recipe called Italian Wedding Soup or Wedding Soup, which according to Wikipedia is a mistranslation of the Italian language phrase “minestra maritata” or “married soup” (referring to how nicely the green vegetables and meat compliment each other so well) who better to help you in the kitchen with this recipe than your significant other? But if, like me, you are single, you can prepare and enjoy this dish completely on your own. I have found from experience that cooking for one can be very pleasant if you savor not only the food but the entire process from start to finish. The last step may seem a little silly or unnecessary, as who prepares a soup only to let it sit in the fridge but I consider this very important as it gives the flavors time to fully meld together. Think of it as the honeymoon period for your soup. And as long as the soup is re-heated thoroughly before serving, no one is the wiser.
Finally, I strongly encourage substitution and experimentation. A recipe should become your own and be just how you like it. I did tweak my original recipe from allrecipes.com entitled “Mama’s Italian Wedding Soup” so please take and use my recipe as a guideline and feel free to comment on what you did differently, what you liked or didn’t like, etc.
- ½ pound extra-lean ground beef
- ½ pound sausage, preferably sage or Italian
- ½ cup dried bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley, or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup minced onion
- 8 cups (2 quarts) low sodium chicken broth (preferred but stock or regular broth will be fine)
- 2 cups spinach (rinsed, thinly sliced, and packed)
- 1 cup orzo
- ¾ cup diced carrots
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, combine beef, sausage, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, basil, oregano, garlic salt, pepper, and parsley. Shape mixture into small meatballs. I would make these fairly small – roughly marble size, as they are one of the best parts of the soup so you want lots of them. (However, if you like a meatier meatball, alternative baking directions are supplied below.) Spray a cookie sheet thoroughly with cooking spray and spread out meatballs evenly on sheet. Bake for 10 minutes for small meatballs or 20 minutes at 325 to 350 degrees for large meatballs.
In a large stock pot, heat chicken broth to a rolling boil on high heat; stir in the orzo gently. Reduce heat to medium and return to boil stirring occasionally for 9 minutes, then immediately add carrots and onions. Stir in spinach at the end, as it is a delicate green and does not take long to cook. Finish by adding in the meatballs and refrigerate the soup 4 to 8 hours or overnight. Reheat when ready to eat and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty Italian bread or whole wheat roll. Enjoy.
Hannah Medrano is a 20-something Oklahoma native who is a college graduate and a lover of food. She has big dreams and high hopes for the future and thinks she would like to become a registered dietitian one day and help people make delicious meals that are good for their bodies. She loves all the best things in life: reading all genres of literature, writing, cooking, traveling, singing and garbling the words, and spending time with friends including her closest one, her shelter dog Roxie, who is a pit mix. Her indulgences are chocolate, wine, massages, Irish coffee, pedicures, and a growing collection of black dresses. She is her harshest critic and a firm believer that every dish she makes can be improved upon. She strives to show love and kindness to others and hopes that by cooking she can satisfy not only the physical desire of hunger but fulfill the innate desire to comfort and nourish others and balance the intricate palate known as the human tongue.