Friday, September 26, 2014

Yes, an Actual Recipe: Italian Wedding Soup

It's kind of pathetic to realize that although I was a professional chef for many years, I have very few recipes on this blog. Okay, time to remedy this. Since I work full-time, I have very little time to cook. My recipes tend to be hodge-podginations of other recipes that I have cannibalized from other people's brilliace to fit my busy schedule.

This is a GREAT recipe for those of use who work. It goes together in a snap and is ready in less than 30 minutes. While it cooks, it gives you enough time to set the table, toss a salad, and open up a bottle of wine. The weather is starting to turn, even here in California. The days are still warm but the night falls quickly with that determination that signals that fall is nigh. I served this the other night and although the day had been warm, it didn't feel like I was serving soup two months too early.

I sort of stole this from Ina Garten, but I've made enough changes that I feel perfectly justified in making it my own. The first thing she does is have you make homemade meatballs. Is she kidding?
Bruce Aidells (who I actually worked with once upon a time) has these perfect chicken sausage meatballs with just the right amount of parmesan. Use them. They are in the deli section of my supermarket.
  • 2 Tbl good olive oil (a generous splash in a large pot will do you)
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion (this is about half of a large onion; I was out of yellow onions the other night and I used red onion. I didn't taste the difference. If you do use red onion, cut it down to 1/2 cup. That's what I had so I made do, and honestly, I couldn't tell the difference. But red onions are sweeter so be careful. Don't use a full cup.)
  • 1 cup diced carrots (I use the pre-prepped packaged baby carrots--the kind that come four to a bunch; one package worked perfectly.)
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (Ina says this takes two stalks; I think that the celery in California must be bigger because one stalk was more than plenty)
  • 2 boxes of Swanson's beef broth (THE BOXES! Use the reduced sodium kind if you can. I've also used chicken stock IN THE BOX and it's not as good)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups small pasta (I think you could even use orzo but some tiny, itty-bitty pasta is best)
  • 1 package of Bruce Aidells mini meatballs, chicken and parmesan
  • 5 oz baby spinach, prepacked and washed (Ina suggested 12 oz of spinach and I think that MUST be a typo. I used one package and it was PLENTY)
  • Grated parmesan
1.  Really the only work here is to dice the onions, carrots, and celery. And I do mean dice. Then basically you're done. You're just adding things once you chop the vegs.

2.  Add olive oil to soup pot, heat, and then add onions, carrots, and celery. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Check to make sure onions don't burn. Stir it around occasionally.

3. Add beef stock and wine. Bring to a boil. Add pasta and meatballs. Cook on medium heat until pasta is cooked (check the box--I use De Cecco pasta because they know pasta and when they say it's cooked in 6 minutes it's not gooey and overcooked. It's nice and al dente).

4.  Taste for salt and pepper. I've never had to add salt OR pepper but to each her/his own. Be careful with the salt. We make this soup last two nights and by night no. 2, it's PLENTY salty enough. I'd hold off on the salt and add appropriate amounts to your soup bowl. I wouldn't add it into the big pot.

5.  Stir in spinach. Turn off heat. The spinach will cook all by itself in the hot soup.

6.  Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle some grated parm on top, serve with a salad dressed with a tart balsamic vinaigrette and a nice glass of red wine.

Dinner is served!