Lovely winter weather finally hit Southern California today -- cloudy, drizzly and just a tad chilly. However, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it all went away tomorrow and 80 degree temps came back to haunt us again. Unpredictable weather is just something that we Southern Californians have to live with regardless of what season we're in. For now though, a nice hearty bowl of soup like this Italian wedding soup is the order of the day.
When I first encountered this soup many years ago in a restaurant, I automatically assumed that it got its name from being something that is commonly served at weddings (duh). Later on, I discovered that the name of the soup literally translates into "married soup", referring to the harmonious marriage of meat and vegetables in the recipe. Cute name, huh?
This soup is really easy to whip up in a jiffy. It's also a well rounded meal on its own as it has protein, carbs and plenty of vegetables. It makes for a nice, heartwarming one-pot dish that can be served for lunch or dinner on a cold day and is great with some warm crusty bread as well.
Italian Wedding Soup
1 pound ground beef (ground chuck or ground sirloin)
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 a large onion, finely minced or grated, with juice
1 tbsp. garlic, finely minced
2 tbsps. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. dried chili flakes (optional)
3/4 tsp. salt
In a large bowl, add all the ingredients to the ground beef and mix well. Don't be afraid to get your hands in there as you'll want all the seasonings to be evenly distributed. Using the palms of your hands, roll the meat into loose balls about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Set aside.
12 cups of chicken stock or broth
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced or diced
1 medium onion, sliced or diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of packed baby spinach, washed
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. of Italian dried herbs
2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of small dried pasta like shells or stars
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken broth and dried Italian herbs and bring to a boil.
Gently drop the meatballs into the pot then cover with lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes then add the carrots and celery. Cover with lid again and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes until the vegetables have become tender. Finally, add the dried pasta and cook for about 8 minutes until al dente.
Stir the Parmesan cheese into the soup along with the baby spinach. Bring to a boil then cover the pot with lid and turn off the heat. Let the soup sit, covered, for about 5 minutes.
Serve hot and top with more Parmesan cheese if desired.