It’s my wedding anniversary today and I am feeling mushy. Mushy and moonstruck. (Sentimental isn’t a remarkably different state for me, it’s just a lot worse today. Or better? For better or for worse!) If you suspect you may find this post unbearable, kindly skip ahead to the recipe. It’s such a good one, and I don’t want you to miss it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage this week, what I’ve learned in the three years I’ve been in one. This year had its rough parts, to be sure. It is a hard thing sometimes, being married. People don’t really mention that when you’re going into it, though when they do it’s nearly impossible to take it to heart and understand it. (Not us, I thought. We’re deeply in love and so right for each other!) Well, we’re still very much in love and still very right for each other, but I get it now. And I get how those hard times make the good times that much better. That a marriage is the sum of its parts and also something more: the highs and the lows and the in-betweens, the earth-shatteringly amazing and the mundane. The personal victories and setbacks shared as a team. The better and the worse. That it all gets melded and merged together, and there’s your marriage. That the effect is cumulative, with a palpable feeling of weight and history and richness the further you go along.
Oh, but anyhow. You’re here for soup. Let’s get to it, because this one is something really special.
I might first point out that Italian wedding soup isn’t actually served at weddings, in Italy or elsewhere. It’s a mistranslation of Minestra Maritata, or “married soup”, a nod to the well-matched pairing of greens and meat, and the marriage of flavors in the soup. (Slightly less auspicious, but we all know that “well-matched and married” trumps “wedding” despite those noisy cultural forces screaming otherwise.)
A good soup is also the sum of its parts, and also something more: the humble carrots and onions, the sturdy foundation of a good stock, a cheery bit of dill, a splash of wine and salt. Some time to allow the flavors to merge and meld. To marry.
Ina Garten’s recipe is a deluxe version of the perfect chicken noodle soup, rich and balanced and sustaining. She’ll be the first to tell you to use a homemade chicken stock, and I have to agree with her; you’ll miss the depth and richness otherwise. If making your own stock seems like too much effort, here’s a compromise, in the spirit of today’s post: try the recipe first with store-bought. If you like it as much as I do, and I’m pretty sure you will, go for homemade the next time around. Make a big batch on a quiet Sunday and you’ll have leftover stock to improve other soups and grains and stews all through the winter.
So that’s it for now. Enjoy your soup. Enjoy the company of the people you love. And to my favorite person on the planet, the man who knows and loves me better than anyone, who makes the best Saturday morning cappuccinos, who still gives me butterflies and makes me blush: happy anniversary, my love.
Italian Wedding Soup
(barely) adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics;
serves 8 as a main dish
for the meatballs:
- 3/4 pound ground chicken or turkey
- 1/2 pound uncooked chicken sausage (casings removed)
- 2/3 cup bread crumbs
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated (plus extra for serving)
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
for the soup:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 C yellow onion, minced
- 1 C carrots, diced
- 3/4 C celery (2 stalks), diced
- 10 C chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1/2 C white wine
- 1 C baby pasta (fusilli, stars, mini farfalle, etc.)
- 1/4 C fresh dill, minced
- 10 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or Silpats if you have them. In a large bowl, gently mix the meatball ingredients together and shape into 1″ meatballs. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the onion, celery and carrots for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the meatballs, dill and spinach and cook an additional minute. Adjust seasonings to your liking. Serve with crusty bread and additional grated cheese.
Wedding photo edited from an original by Rodney Bailey.