Let's yap about how perfection is overrated.
You know, I always assumed that Italian wedding soup got its name because it was always served at Italian weddings. Soup doesn't really seem like a wedding food, and I'd never actually been to a wedding where soup was served. But, hey, what do I know? I didn't question it. Until writing this post today. So I looked it up: the origin of wedding soup.
The Real Bride & Groom
Its Italian name is minestra maritata, which literally translates to "married soup". The married part has nothing to do with a bride and a groom, but instead references the marriage of flavors between the meat and the greens. Well... yum! Til death do ya part.
The quick history can be found on Wikipedia. But it's kinda dry.
When it comes to Italian food, experience is by far the best way to learn. Lucky me, Pittsburgh has a large community of Italian immigrants who love to show off their old world recipes. And the rest of us LOVE to be their taste-testers!
For something a little closer to home and less Wiki-dry, here's a wonderfully-written story from 2019. It was published in my hometown newspaper and highlights a wedding soup contest.
Like every couple is different, married soups can be different, too. Beef, pork, and veal are commonly used for the meatballs. I prefer chicken & turkey. I like that they are healthier meats, and they make a softer meatball.
I also like to use kale. It's not tender like spinach; it can actually be somewhat tough and hard to chew... and chew and chew.
Have I lost weight from all this chewing? My jaw muscles are starting to bulk up.
I get it. But when you put kale in soup, those qualities work in our favor. It softens enough so it's not work to chew it, but it maintains enough structure to not be mush in your mouth. It's 100% my go-to green for this recipe.
But you do you. Marry whoever you want.
To Heck with Perfection
You know how I said I prefer using chicken and turkey? Well... it's not all posies and rainbows. The meats are SO soft and sticky that it's hard to form pretty round meatballs. I mean it sticks so dang bad. You're lucky to get a meatblob.
But don't despair.
Food-grade vinyl gloves are the answer. You can shape any kind of meatball or loaf with vinyl gloves. They are a Godsend in the kitchen, and this reason tops the list. Oh my gosh, I love them so much.
But what happens when you ran out a few weeks ago? And you saw them at a store for nearly twice as much as online, scoffed, and determined you'd go home and order them? What happens when you didn't?
I'll tell you what happens. All your meatballs end up having little tails from trying to fling tiny meat mounds off the ends of your fingers into the broth.
And you try poly gloves that were lying around. And the meatball mix sticks to those, too. Horribly so.
And you try spraying your hands with baking spray. It seemed like a good idea. 💀 (Is this the emoji I'm supposed to use now instead of 😂 to not show my age?). Whatevs.
And your frustration turns into a rolling boil. All the while you're scooping and fighting and flinging meat lumps with tails into the broth.
And you start feeling like the soup is now ruined.
Then you realize. So what? Perfection is overrated.
Here's What Happened
I got through it.
Tails be damned. You can hardly tell after they cooked.
I took the photos anyway.
We ate the soup. Our bellies were warm and full.
And we lived happily, imperfectly ever after.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 3 quarts chicken broth
- 1 pound kale chopped; thick stems removed
- 1 cup orzo
- 3 tablespoons fresh italian flat-leaf parsley chopped
- Soak bread in milk in large bowl. Beat with a fork or whisk until large lumps are gone.
- Stir in remaining ingredients, except meat.
- Add meat and knead by hand until well combined.
- Set aside briefly if preparing the soup immediately.
- If making meatballs in advance, use a ½-ounce scoop to form mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Meatballs can be made up to 2 days in advance.
- Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Cook garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium.
- Use a ½-ounce scoop to form mixture into 1-inch meatballs. As you make each meatball, drop it into simmering broth. You should end up with about 60 meatballs.
- Stir in kale and simmer until softened, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Stir in pasta, increase heat to medium high, and cook until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes for orzo. See directions on box/bag if using another shape of pasta.
- Stir in fresh parsley. Serve hot with fresh bread. Enjoy!
- Each serving is about 6 meatballs and 8 ounces of soup. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.
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