This take on Italian Wedding Soup uses Swiss Chard instead of celery and other greens for a comforting soup perfect for cold weather or anytime of the year. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Folks often ask me if I have any formal training in cooking. I don’t. I have been baking since I was 8 years old and it’s been a passion of mine ever since. But I occasionally take professional cooking and baking classes here and there to learn new things, and to stretch myself. Several years ago I took a cooking classes for a week, which had me fine tuning my knife skills, making homemade pasta and tea smoking shrimp. But one of my favorite things that I made that week was an Italian Wedding Soup. It’s stuck in the back of my head ever since, even though I haven’t really made it since.
All that changed this past week. While the Midwest is undergoing a polar vortex with insanely cold temperatures, here in San Francisco we’re in the cool mid-50s. This is not to brag, as anything under 72°F is cause for alarm here in San Francisco and an immediate donning of thick sweaters and scarves. But in solidarity for those who are truly living in cold weather (and because I’ve grown soft living here in our moderate temperate climate bubble for the past 20 years) I thought soup would be a good idea.
And that’s when I realized I hadn’t made Italian Wedding Soup since that class. It’s a fairly easy soup to make, though the meatballs that go in the soup require a bit of prepping. Nevertheless AJ was pretty happy with the final product, so much so that he had another bowl the following day and finished off the pot of before I knew it. Next time I may make a double batch of the meatballs, and freeze half of them, allowing me to make this soup even faster for a weeknight meal. But as it is, this from scratch soup, comes together pretty quickly and is the perfect anecdote from the blizzard that may or may not be outside your door.
Italian Wedding Soup
- 3/4 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage bulk or removed from the casing
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons chopped chives
- 2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 bunch Swiss chard about 8 ounces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 large carrots diced to 1/2-inch chunks
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup dry white wine or substitute 1 additional cup of chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup orzo pasta about 8 ounces or another small pasta
- Additional salt and pepper to taste
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Make the meatballs by combining the beef, sausage, parmesan, bread crumbs, egg, chives, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Massage ingredients together with your hands until they are uniformly blended. Run your hands under water to dampen them, then roll 1-inch meatballs. The mixture should make about 40 to 50 meatballs.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large stock pot. Add half the meatballs and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the sides of the meatball are golden brown. Don’t worry if the inside of the meatballs aren’t cooked fully. You’ll cook them further in the soup. You just want to brown the outside to give them a crust and flavor. Move the brown meatballs to a large heatproof bowl and add the additional oil to the pot and repeat with the remaining meatballs. Do not clean out the pot.
- Cut the thick stems out from the chard. Slice the chard leaves thin 1-inch strips and set aside. Chop the stems into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Add the olive oil the pot that you browned the meatballs. Add the chard stems, onion, carrots to the pot and cook until the carrots have softened and the onions are starting to turn transparent, about 8 minutes on medium heat.
- Add the chicken stock, white wine (if using), bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and any juices in the bottom of the bowl to the pot. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Add the pasta and cook for the suggested time on the package. About 2 minutes before the pasta is al dente, add the chard leaves to the pot and stir in to wilt.
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese to garnish on top.