Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wedding Soup

Having lived away from our extended family for most of the past nineteen years, the responsibility of holiday dinners has been almost entirely mine. Only on a few occasions have we spent a major holiday away with family.
It's been especially fun when my parents have come for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I love working in the kitchen with the two best cooks I know!

As the children have grown & become more adept in the kitchen, my work load has become lighter.
This year, the work of Christmas meal prep was even lighter - for me, at least.
The children did almost all of the baking. I only made one batch of lemon sugar snaps (from Martha Stewart; my first time; marginal results).

We were invited to share Christmas dinner with The Cousins, with "instructions" to bring whatever we wanted.
The girls made a couple of quiches and some desserts, and I got over easily.
I decided to make soup, and the girls made a special request:
Wedding Soup.

Being from Pittsburgh, I learned about Italian food (and Polish food and German food) before I ever learned about "soul" food. In fact, growing up, my exposure to "soul food" was relegated to a mere handful of basic options (although, with my parents, even ordinary foods are extraordinary):

Fried Chicken

(I'll ONLY eat my dad's.)

Collard Greens
(I ONLY ate my dad's until Craig learned how to make them.)

As I've already mentioned, my parents are the best cooks I know, and this is true even with Italian food.
However, I never had wedding soup while growing up in their household.
I don't even know anyone else who makes it at home, except for a lady I once met in an Italian market. As a visual learner, I didn't remember much of her verbal recipe sharing that day. So, when I was ready to make it at home just a few years ago, I had to search online for a recipe.

I ended up finding two recipes that seemed promising. Each one lacked something that the other offered, so I combined the best of the two.
For the past several years, this has been a favorite, not only for my household, but also for friends and relatives who've tasted it.

On Christmas Day this year, though, I decided to wing it, and it ended up being the best yet! The Cousins don't eat much beef or any pork; so to be safe, I made turkey meatballs.
Here's what I did:

Turkey Meatballs = ground turkey, crumbled bread (a slice or so of something good - I used my homemade wheat bread and grated it manually), chopped onions, herbs, salt, pepper, egg, milk.
Don't make them too large. I used a tablespoon to scoop mine, and that's about as large as they should ever be.

Cook the meatballs in the bottom of the soup pot you plan to use. Add chopped vegetables when the meatballs are sufficiently browned:
(It'll be necessary to push the meatballs to the sides of the pot & add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.)

(I was out of celery, and I'm SO glad! Fennel is the way of the future. For sure.)




(Confession: I use frozen spinach.)

I keep a cute little covered dish of coarse salt next to my stove. I always feel more chef-like as I pinch and sprinkle while cooking. Don't be shy, but don't overdo it. That goes for pepper, too. It doesn't hurt to add a bit more herbs and other seasonings along with the vegetables. I added some ground celery seed, as well.

OK, I can hear your question. 
("Which herbs?")
I used rosemary, thyme, sage (all fresh), and dried oregano. I may have thrown in a little savory, but I can't recall for certain.

NOTE: This soup got rave reviews, even from The Cousins (who, surprisingly, had never tasted Wedding Soup before). So, if yours turns out bland, don't blame me. I am a seasoner. I just can't direct you on exactly how much. You'll have to sample as you go.
My only caution is that it is possible to use too much oregano, and it doesn't take much to cross the line. That stuff is powerful, unless it's fresh.

Cute little covered dish (gotta love Polish pottery, eh?)
 When the veggies start to get a little tender, go ahead and add chicken broth. Now, I'm leaving this up to your discretion. It really depends on how many meatballs you have, whether or not you add a mini pasta (I usually don't), and how brothy you like your soup. It's totally a matter of personal preference, but at least use enough broth to cover the ingredients and leave room for evaporation as it simmers.

That's it. That's how I made my wedding soup. It's all in how you season it - and your meatballs really make a difference, too. Please - whatever you do! - DO NOT cheat by buying frozen meatballs. Seriously. It's worth the effort to make them yourself. If you decide to ignore my advice, just don't tell anyone where you got the recipe, OK?

The girls said that this photo makes the soup look more like swamp water (the camera is still in the shop); but I assure you, it is far superior to that.


  1. This soup Rocks the Casbah - to the max - like, totally, for sure. We made the "real" version (you know, sausage meatballs!) not too long ago and fought over the left-overs. I won, of course, because I beat everybody at arm wrestling...don't I Craigy??? I miss your kitchen terribly, just sitting, drinking coffee and laughing til my face hurts!

  2. Terri, I was thinking of you as I posted this, recalling that you're my biggest wedding soup fan. Craig G got a kick out of your reminder that you beat him in an arm-wrestling match. :-) I'll have to post a photo of his "guns". He's been working on them since then. My kitchen misses you back, and I miss having my face hurt right along with yours.