Ina’s Italian Wedding Soup

If you know me at all, you know I love Ina. And by way of transitive property, I love this soup. Math.

A couple weeks ago, I went home to California. Yes. It was 80 degrees, sunny, and fantabulous. But weather was not the only thing I had going for me. I was fed. Very good food, from out-and-about and from home.

I was a big fan of this soup when my dad made it for the first time last year, so I was very excited when he suggested it for a Monday night dinner. There was one catch: he would be at work and would have to pass on the apron to me. Pressure, pressure, pressure.

Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic, as my dad already had already assembled the meatballs, chopped the vegetables, and left the recipe on the counter. And despite the fact that the only attendees would be myself, Papa Miyashiro, and Mum, I was still nervous that the soup wouldn’t be quite as good.

No worries- the soup was amazing. My dad came home early and was able to oversee the kitchen operations. I was clearly the sous chef (if that). When I added the wine, he added a little more. When I kept the heat on high, he turned it down to a simmer. Yet, instead of being a huge blow to my ego, I am glad that I was able to learn from his techniques while cooking by his side. The man knows his stuff, and I aspire to have that confidence and ease in the kitchen.

The meatballs are my favorite and can be eaten by themselves or in a sandy. The Pecorino Romano cheese make them incredibly savory without being too heavy. And at the same time, the soup tastes very fresh from the dill added in at the end. With all my time dedicated to finding the perfect burger in NYC with my boyfriend or grabbing a slice from Tom’s Delicious Pizza, it is easy to forget that healthy can be yummy. This is a meal you will enjoy, feel good about, and crave again soon.

Italian Wedding Soup
by Ina Garten

For the meatballs:
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
10 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

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A Healthy Alternative: Quinoa

Baby spinach is my enemy right now. I usually love the leafy green, but after packing it everyday for lunch, it has become the opposite of appetizing. I’m sure that I will crave it again soon enough, but for the time being, I am seeking healthy lunch alternatives. Last week, I decided to make quinoa.

I love quinoa. (Pronounced keen-wah) If you’ve never tried it, you should. Its a nutritious grain, high in fiber, iron, and amino acids. Plus its gluten-free! I’m also going to say it tastes healthy, but not in a bad way. I promise. It has a very mild, almost nutty flavor, giving it wide potential for different flavor pairings. My favorite thing about the grain is the texture. It has a bit of a crunch and won’t get soggy easily. I’ve made burnt quinoa before, but I’ve never overcooked it to the point of mush. 
Anywho. Hopefully at this point I’ve sold you on the cute little grain. This recipe is from Gourmet  and is definite keeper. Its filled with black beans and tomatoes, making it very filling and even more nutritious. Lime zest, lime juice, and a bit of cilantro brighten the flavor, making the dish very summery and very yummy. The only change I would make for next time would be to substitute olive oil for butter. I will also add more zest and juice. (Although I didn’t measure my add-ins, so the recipe may actually be spot-on) Enjoy!

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa
Gourmet, July 2007 

  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 (14- to 15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter, oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Rinse quinoa with cold water, draining in sieve. 
Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve in same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don’t worry if lid doesn’t fit tightly) and steam over medium heat until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and remove lid. Let stand, still covered with towel, 5 minutes. **
Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. 
**This can be a bit time consuming. I have found it fine to follow the directions on the back of the quinoa package, usually requiring you to cook for 10-15 minutes straight