Spinach is a cool weather crop. With temperatures reaching the 90s recently, the plants were beginning to bolt. Before pulling them from the ground, I decided to pick one last harvest and make a large pot of Italian Wedding Soup.
There is not a bit of truth to folklore suggesting Italian Wedding Soup is a traditional soup served to the bride and groom at a wedding reception .The term “wedding soup” comes from the Italian phrase “minestra maritata,” which refers to the combination or marriage of the flavors of the ingredients in the soup.
Naturally, there are many versions of wedding soup, but recipes usually call for some sort of green leafy vegetable like spinach or kale. There are tiny meatballs in the soup made from beef and/or sausage, which also contain Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley. A clear chicken broth provides the base to which carrots and pasta are added. The soup is served with additional Parmesan cheese.
I was introduced to wedding soup while growing up in northern West Virginia where there were a lot of Italian families. At that time, making wedding soup was a complex ordeal, beginning with preparing the stock from scratch. Then the ingredients for the meatballs were mixed, and, finally, the soup was left to simmer for hours.
Fortunately, streamlined recipes now exist for the busy cook. You can use meatloaf mix for the meatballs and the chicken stock can be canned. Some recipes call for frozen spinach.
Even if the notion has been dispelled that wedding soup consumed on the wedding day will guarantee a blissful marriage, there are still plenty of reasons to love it. Personally, I think this light delicious soup provides a “happily-ever-after” to one’s taste buds.
Italian Wedding Soup
1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice white bread, made into crumbs
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
8 ounces lean ground beef
8 ounces Italian sausage
9 cups chicken broth
3 cups spinach, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
6 ounces star pasta (or any small pasta)
2 tablespoons Parmesan, optional for garnish
To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the cheese, beef, and sausage. Shape the meat mixture into small bitesize meatballs and place on a baking sheet.
To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil. Add the spinach and carrots. Add the uncooked meatballs, stirring occasionally to make sure they do not stick. Once the broth returns to boiling, add the pasta and continue cooking until the pasta and meatballs are completely cooked, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Sprinkle bowls of soup with Parmesan cheese just before serving.