Sunday, 28 July 2013

Soup Sunday: Italian wedding soup

Soup Sunday continues with the Italian theme, though today there will be no pasta. Though some recipes do call for that, too. Today's soup is Italian wedding soup, though calm down, I've not been sucked into the vortex of wedding planning (though I probably should try and get excited about it). This soup got its name as a result of a misunderstanding.

The original name comes from the expression "minestra maritata", which apparently refers to how well meat marries with leafy vegetables. At its most puristic the recipe is that simple: chicken stock base, meat (usually in the form of meatballs or sausage meat) and leaves (kale, cabbage, spinach...)

Wikipedia also shed some light on the origins of the tradition of serving this dish around Christmas time in the regions of Lazio and Campania - it stems from the time the areas were occupied by the Spanish! Their version though, known especially around Toledo region, was heavier and meatier than this version, rooted in American-Italian tradition in particular.

As with all the traditional dishes there are more versions than anyone has fingers to keep track of. Some have chicken pulled form the bone, some have pasta, some have beans and/or lentils and varying quantities of vegetables. Mine is very close to the "most traditional", though one tip I did pinch form Food Network's Giada de Laurentiis. Her recipe subsitutes pasta with thin strands of lightly whisked eggs combined with grated parmesan. It does help keep the soup summery and light - and makes the soup free of both carbs and gluten. Based on availability and your own taste you can use just about any leaves you want - Savoy cabbage and bok choy for instance work beautifully. Dazzled as I was about the new harvest I used new onions, new cabbage, fresh spinach and fresh green beans - left from the summer soup- bonanza.

I made the meatballs out of mix of pork and beef to make them less fatty than all-pork-ones, but you can use that too. And I'm sure you could use miced chicken too. In order to keep the soup both carb- and gluten-free I made the meatballs without breadcrumbs/ soaked bread too. If, unlike yours truly, you're not still in the early stages of learning to cook with cheese, you can double the amount of parmesan given below and add an egg to bind it all together.

This yields 6 portions


400 g mince
the zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 chilli
2 cloves of garlic
1 smallish onion
1/2 dl grated parmesan
(or 1 dl parmesan and 1 egg)
2 handfuls of chopped parsley

The soup

1,5 litres good chicken stock
1 large fennel (2 if they're small)
1/2  cabbage head (the whole one was about 550 g)
50 g spinach leaves
100 g fresh green beans
2 handfuls of spring onion stalks (appr. 3 stems) OR 1 onion
2 handfuls of chopped parsley
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 allspice peppers

2 eggs (+2 tbsp parmesan)

More parmesan for garnish

For meatballs sauté finely chopped onion and garlic in a pan with some oil. Once they're soft and translucent mix with the rest of the ingredients. Knead into a smooth mixture and let sit in the cold for about half an hour allowing the flavours to come together. Roll into even-sized balls of desired size. I made 28 balls - do remember that the size also affects the cooking time.

Peel off fennel's outer, leathery skin, remove the hard stalk and slice thinly. Trim the beans and chop into smaller batons. Cut the cabbage in half, remove the hard core and slice into thin strips. If your spinach is fine leaves, use them as are. If they're the big, leathery kind, remove the stalk and vut into thin strips. If using onions, peel the outer layer, cut in half and slice thinly.

Bring stock to boil. Add allspice peppers. Then add the ingredients in cooking order. First fennel (and onion if using), then meatballs (mine took about 7 minutes to cook), a couple of minutes after this beans and cabbage and a couple of minutes before the end spinach. Once the meatballs are done, stir in grated lemon zest, chopped spring onion stalks (if using) and parsley.

Lightly whisk 2 eggs (with parmesan if using) and pour into the soup in a thin ribbon while continuing to stir. Remove form heat and serve with freshly grated parmesan.

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