Italian Wedding Soup
By Catherine Newman
Makes: 6 servings
Total carbohydrates: 6 grams per serving
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
I have always assumed that one day I would (finally) attend an Italian wedding, where I would be served this fragrantly delicious meatball-studded, egg-threaded soup. I recently learned, however, that the name actually refers not to human nuptials, but to the delightful marriage of meat and greens. A little disappointing, sure, but still a wedding you’ll be happy to attend. Let me just mention a couple of things: escarole looks like a kind of raggedy head of lettuce, and if you can find it, do use it; it’s simultaneously bitter and, when simmered in broth, lusciously sweet, and it has these lovely meaty stems, which add tons of substance to the soup. (That said, it’s totally fine to use other greens.) Also: while the lemon is not traditional, I love the vibrant punch it adds here, and I also love to add enough black pepper—to both the meatballs and the soup itself—that it all ends up a little bit spicy.
For the Meatballs:
¼ of an onion, chopped (around ¼ cup)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
Lots of black pepper
1 pound ground meat: I use ½ pound ground beef plus ½ pound ground pork, but you can use 1 pound of all beef or all pork, or even ground dark chicken or turkey
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
For the Soup:
8 cups (2 quarts) chicken broth
1 head escarole (about 1 pound) or a similar amount of other hardy greens, like curly endive, mustard greens, or kale, washed well and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons parmesan (plus lots more for serving)
Lots more black pepper
Make the meatballs: put the onion, garlic, parsley, salt, and black pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and pulse until very finely chopped. Add the meat(s) and pulse again to blend, then add the egg and cheese and pulse until the mixture looks well combined. (Alternately, finely chop the veggies and herbs and mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, beating quite vigorously with a wooden spoon until well combined.)
Using a teaspoon, measure out small blobs of the meatball mixture and put the blobs on a large plate as you make them. Think “cherry” rather than, say, “golf ball.” (I love a huge meatball as much as the next person, but you really want these to be small, and they’ll swell in the broth, so resist the temptation to biggefy them.)
Wet your hands and roll each blob into a ball. It takes at least 10 minutes to measure and shape all the meatballs, so you might as well sit down for this part.
Bring the broth to a simmer in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low, then add all the greens. , followed, gently by all the meatballs. Simmer, uncovered, until the meatballs are cooked through and the greens are tender, around 8-10 minutes.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the cheese and plenty of black pepper. Hold the egg bowl in one hand and a fork in the other, and begin stirring the soup in a circular motion with the fork while you slowly drizzle in the eggs. The eggs are supposed to form long strands, but mine usually form something slightly clumpier and less elegant that you wouldn’t really be likely to describe as “strands,” but which are still very delicious.
Grate in some of the zest from the lemon, squeeze in about half of its juice, and then taste the soup. Add more salt and/or pepper and/or lemon zest or juice (if it needs it), then serve with extra parmesan and lemon wedges.