Even the name, Italian wedding soup, is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. Leave it to the romantic Italians to invent a soup exclusively for the celebration of love. While the idea, a ready assumption given the soup’s name, is a good one, in actuality, Italian wedding soup is found not only at weddings but here, there, and everywhere. Making a memorable wedding soup means using the freshest ingredients, creating memorable meatballs, and remembering that a little zesty lemon brings a bright drop of sunshine to the bowl.
While it’s certainly possible to create tiny wedding soup meatballs using just one type of ground meat — be it beef, pork, or chicken — a combination of two or more intensifies the flavors. Bread crumbs bind the meatballs, and beaten raw eggs add moisture and further binding. Most cooks add some hard grated cheese such as Romano or Parmesan. The more lightly the meatballs are handled as the ingredients are mixed, the more tender the resulting little treats will be.
The wise cook knows that, while the meatballs can be added directly to the broth to cook, they are much tastier after a quick visit in a skillet where they are lightly browned. While the meatballs are browning, a pot of chicken stock should be simmering away. Sautéed minced garlic and onion added to the stock flavor it richly. A necessary ingredient in Italian wedding soup is greens, although whether escarole, kale, spinach, or another green ends up in the pot is largely a matter of what is available.
The final step in creating a celebratory wedding soup involves a few more beaten eggs together with some grated cheese. Most cooks like to create a combination of cheeses, although they should be of the grating type such as pecorino and Romano. When this combination is drizzled into the broth and stirred, it forms into long, yellow strands that cling to the greens beautifully.
As with all wonderful and simple recipes, dozens of variations of Italian wedding soup are easy to find. Some create a spicier version by adding ground sausage to the meatballs. Others like to add further flavor and nutrition in the form of celery, carrots, and sweet bell peppers. A splash of white wine brings out the Italian in this soup, and adding some pasta stars or other tiny shapes means children will fall in love with what swims in their bowls beside the tiny meatballs and probably won’t even notice the veggies.