This blog is seriously turning into a Barefoot Contessa fan page, isn't it? And two soup recipes in a row? But I can't help it! Ina's recipes are SO GOOD. They are exactly my favorite kinds of food: classics that have been updated to be lighter and brighter, and which pack a powerful punch of flavor. And of course, this soup is no exception.
Being a Californian (and not an Italian or from Ohio/Pennsylvania, where this soup is apparently very popular), I had never had Italian Wedding Soup before making this recipe. The most I had to compare it to was plain Jane chicken noodles soup, and may I say that this soup absolutely blows chicken noodle soup right out of the water? It's like everything that chicken soup ever wanted to be, it's so deliciously perfect. Not to mention that it's ridiculously easy. I love that the meatballs are baked in the oven; it's so much less work than frying them, and they are much less greasy and heavy than traditional fried meatballs. This isn't Nate's favorite chicken soup (go figure. Probably the dill), but it sure is mine. Next time I come down with a cold (or I just get a hankering for something warm and comforting) this is going to be the first thing I ask for.
Ina Garten's Italian Wedding Soup • Gluten free! Or not.
I had a dickens of a time finding chicken breakfast sausage, and I had to go to four (yes FOUR) grocery stores before I could find it. I finally found some at Trader Joe's, which is the only place I know of that carries it. If you can't find it anywhere, I think turkey breakfast sausage (as well as ground turkey) is much more widely available. Alternatively, you might use chicken/turkey italian sausage and even pork sausage if you really can't find anything.
The second difficulty for me was that the recipe calls for 1 cup of very small pasta, like stars. I haven never seen any gluten-free pasta that small, so I wasn't sure what to do. Finally (brilliantly, if I do say so myself), I gave some uncooked rice spaghetti a whirl in the blender, and it came out perfect! If you don't eat gluten-free then don't worry about it, but if you do end up using this method, keep in mind that rice spaghetti is much starchier than wheat spaghetti, and all that starch may thicken up your soup. To avoid this, you can use less pasta, or cook the spaghetti separately, strain and rinse it, and then add it to the soup. Or you can do nothing, if you don't mind a thicker soup (I don't).
For the Meatballs
3/4 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
1/2 lb chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup bread crumbs (I like to pulse up leftover gluten-free bread in the blender, and then store it in he freezer until I need it)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in a green can works great. Save the expensive fresh stuff for grating over the hot soup)
1 extra large egg, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons milk
kosher salt and freshly ground black Pepper
For the Soup
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely diced carrots (2-3 carrots)
3/4 cup finely diced celery (2 stalks)
2.5 quarts chicken stock (10 cups, preferably home made)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta, such as stars or broken up spaghetti (precooked or not)
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 oz baby spinach
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together ground chicken, chicken sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, egg, milk, and salt and pepper to taste (all the meatball ingredients). Using a teaspoon, scoop meatball mixture in even measures, placing each scoop on the prepared pan. Don't worry about making the meatballs round, just scoop and plop. Bake meatballs in preheated oven until firm and browned, about 30 minutes.
2. In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil, and saute onion and garlic until softened and translucent. Add carrots and celery, and saute another 5 minutes or so, until vegetables begin to brighten in color.
3. Add stock and wine, and bring soup to a boil. Add (precooked or not) pasta, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 10-15 minutes, until pasta is al dente and vegetables are soft.
4. Add meatballs, and dill. Simmer 2-3 minutes. Remove heat from pot, stir in baby spinach. Serve, top with freshly grated parmesan, enjoy!