February 12, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

I’ve had Italian Wedding Soup on my mind for a while.  And not because my recipes of late seem to be wedding themed; there’s just something about putting little teeny tiny meatballs into soup that brings a smile to my face.

Sometimes I’m desperate for something simple for lunch and I’ll grab a couple cans of Progresso soup to get me through the work-week.  When I tried the Italian Wedding Soup from Progresso I was more than impressed by the flavor.  About a week later Yahoo!’s home page featured a simple Italian Wedding soup by Fabio Viviani.  I felt like this was a sign that I needed to test the recipe myself and share the results with all of you, of course! 

First, sauté one cup onion, one cup celery and one cup carrots in olive oil until tender and starting to brown.  I let the veggies cook over low heat while I prepared the meatballs for baking.  Fabio claims that the secret to any good soup is letting the veggies saute until they just begin to brown and I think this detail definitely added to the depth of flavor.
While the veggies are softening, combine one pound ground beef (Fabio suggest 80/20), 2 eggs, 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs (mine were Italian seasoned) and a couple tablespoons shredded Parmesan. 
I did substitute asadero cheese since that was what I had on-hand.  I mixed everything thoroughly with my bare hands and then shaped the meat mixture into small ½ inch meatballs and baked them on a large cookie sheet for 15 minutes on 375 degrees.
While the meatballs baked, the veggies started to brown slightly and I added 2 quarts of chicken stock and 2 cups of water and let it come to a simmer.  After it simmered for a few minutes I added the spinach to let it wilt.  At that point I added the meatballs and orzo and let everything simmer in the pot for maybe another ½ hour or so until the pasta was cooked thoroughly.  

I only had 2 quarts of chicken stock on hand but the 3rd quart would have been nice; the orzo really absorbs a lot of the broth.  Spinach is so difficult to measure, I recommend adding more spinach than you think you need since the wilting process decreases its volume.  Also the meatballs were good, but did sort of taste like hunks of plain ground beef in the soup.  Next time I’ll season them more and perhaps let them simmer in the soup for a longer amount of time. 
What I love about preparing soups is that you don't have to follow any strict instructions.  It's basically a combination of a bunch of ingredients simmering together and allowing the flavors to meld.  The Italian wedding soup is a very wonderful, hearty-yet-light soup that is perfect for the winter months.  The protein in the beef really makes it a more substantial dish and I will definitely make this again. I prepared the recipe almost exactly as Fabio suggests and it turned out mighty tasty.  Proof that it is not impossible to cook like a famous chef! 

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