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Ina Garten’s Italian Wedding Soup and her recipe for Chicken Stock

         Winter weekends are just made for hearty soups, especially on those days when you are dodging snowflakes or stuck indoors because the weather’s just too cold.  So when I found myself shut in during the Great Blizzard of ’13, I pulled out the cookbooks on the hunt for a great soup.  Now Italian Wedding Soup is a staple on many a soup board in New York.  For some strange reason, I’d never eaten it.  But with its comforting chicken broth, its tiny pastas and robust meatballs, and its good-for-you vegetables, it seemed like the perfect thing to serve for a Saturday supper.  And the perfect place to find a recipe for it is from Easthampton’s own, Ina Garten.  The recipe, from Ina’s 2008 classic “Back to Basics” (Clarkson Potter), is none too labor intensive—if you don’t count the part about making your own stock.  But stock-making on a cold day is almost therapeutic. I’ve included Ina’s own recipe for Chicken stock after the Wedding Soup recipe.  Since I did go ahead and use homemade stock, I can’t vouch for a version without it. But supermarket broth is certainly an option.  Just let me know how it tastes!

The Wedding Scene from
“The Godfather”
No evidence that Italian
Wedding Soup was served

Italian Wedding Soup is two bad translations from the Italian. In Italy, the phrase ‘si sposano bene’ means ‘to marry well’.  There’s a soup in Italy called “Minestra Maritata”.  In this case, the marriage of greens and meat in a clear broth is such a great combination that the soup is described as ‘si sponsano bene’.  In neither case does the name has anything to do with Weddings. The only marriage it celebrates is the marriage of the flavors of the soup. In the United States however it has become a very popular tradition at Italian American weddings. 

         When I was researching the recipe, I found lots of variations of this recipe. There were versions that used veal and pork meatballs, some turkey, and some that used all beef.  Ina’s version seemed healthiest, with its ground chicken and chicken sausage meatballs.  There were also versions using all kinds of greens from escarole to kale to broccoli rabe.  But in our house, spinach is the most welcome. Finally there’s the pasta.  Ina used tubatini, another small pasta like the ditalini I used.  But many recipes called for Orzo.  The key here is the size of the pasta—small—so it doesn’t take over the soup.  As you can see, you have a free hand with this recipe.  I had a rind of parmesan cheese that I couldn’t let go to waste.  Into the soup pot it went.  Served with a nice big helping of grated parmesan and with a garlic toast fresh from the oven, the dish was everything a winter supper could hope to be: Warm, comforting, substantial.  Here’s the recipe:
 



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