Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Now while I don’t know any Jewish wedding that this amount of soup would fit the bill for, you can feed about 8-10 people with it as a nice starter. Think of it as an Italian chicken soup, but with meatballs instead of matzo balls! Not that the edition of matzo balls would be a bad idea… hmm…

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

1 pound lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup dried bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
⅓ teaspoon salt, or to taste
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Soup:

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
⅓ cup coarsely chopped onion
⅓ cup coarsely chopped carrot
⅓ cup coarsely chopped celery
1 teaspoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 ½ quarts chicken broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
salt to taste
1 cup seashell pasta (or other small-shaped noodle)
2 cups spinach – packed, rinsed* and thinly sliced

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, eggs, bread crumbs, basil, parsley, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined, but do not over mix. Shape the meat into ¾ inch balls, and set aside. In a large stockpot, on medium-high heat, add the oil and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until the onion becomes slightly translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, and let cook a few minutes more until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the broth, bay leaf and peppercorns and any salt that is desired, bringing the broth to a boil. You may wish to put the bay leaf and peppercorns in a little cheesecloth bundle, to make for easy removal later, but you can skip this step, and simply fish them out later. Once boiling, slowly drop in the meatballs and pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, at a slow boil for about 10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the meatballs are no longer pink inside. At the last minute add the spinach and wilt it into the soup. Serve hot with crusty bread and enjoy!

* click here to check out how to clean spinach properly.

A Map of Flavour

Map of ItalyYou know, for a relatively small country (shaped like a boot no less!) Italy has a wide and vast range of cuisines running through out it. Each region has it’s own style of dish, and is well known for it, through out Italy, and the world. If you broke it down to the top five, they would be (in no particular order):

Emilia Romagna Region – Main city of Bologna
Tuscany Region – Main city of Florence
Latium Region – Main city of Rome
Lombard Region – Main city of Milan
Liguria Region – Main city of Genoa

And of course, each region has its own famous dish, calling from what is grown and produced in the area that makes up the region.

In Emalia-Romagne, the chief meat is pork (sorry kosher lovers!), and comprises the main ingredient in the area’s renowned Ragu sauce. This thick, rich, and complex tomato sauce is ideally suited for pasta. Ragu is often called “Bolognese sauce”, named after the region’s leading city. Don’t worry though, it’s just as good made with beef!

In Tuscany, Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a well-known dish, comprised of thick, choice steak cut from the local Chianina cattle, charcoal broiled and flavoured with olive oil, salt and pepper. Another interesting note, whenever you see the words “Florentine” on a menu, you can be pretty sure it will contain spinach. This goes back to a relied upon, but unproven, theory is that Catherine de Medici introduced spinach to the Court of France (or at least made it popular). To honour her Italian roots, she supposedly dubbed any dish containing spinach ‘Florentine’.

In Rome, the chief city of the region of Latium, they are known for their Fettuccine al Burro. Now before you start thinking that this is some kind of donkey pasta, in Italian, burro means butter, and this fettuccine dish is one that you are very familiar with, as it is also known as Fettuccine Alfredo or alla Romana. Flat ribbon-shaped pasta is tossed, generally, with cream, butter and cheese, then given a good sprinkling of freshly ground peppercorns.

Now from Milan, nestled in the Lombard region, comes my personal favourite: Osso Buco. Ahhh just saying it makes my mouth water! Traditionally, a veal shank braised with tomato, onion, stock and wine, then topped with Gremolata, a garnish made with parsley, garlic and lemon rind. The choicest morsel in Osso Buco (“hole in bone”) is the cooked marrow clinging to the hollow of the bone. Remember to come back on Thursday for my recipe for this dish!

Lastly, we travel to the Liguria region, and it’s main city of Genoa. Many of you may have heard of Genoa salami, but did you know that this region is the birthplace of Pesto! That fragrant, thick, green sauce that is now prepared by cooks around the world, pesto is made by pounding its ingredients together with a pestle (hence, the name) in a mortar. The essential ingredients are basil, garlic, Parmesan and Sardinian ewe’s milk cheeses, along with pine nuts and olive oil.

Well, that has been quite the tour, and we only hit on five regions! There are so many more! Think about it… we haven’t even broached the topic of pizza yet! Well, good things come to those that wait, so stay tuned for more from Italy throughout the week. Ciao!