Seasonal Flavors: Italian Wedding Soup

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I have eaten Italian wedding soup at an actual Italian wedding. I have had it at various food court venues at the Pittsburgh airport. I did not think it was available in this area, but I just saw it as a takeout option at the Hunt Country Deli on Garth Road. But the absolute best wedding soup I have ever eaten was at my godfather’s funeral, just before the Covid pandemic. That soup was astonishing! 

At the post-funeral celebration, the wedding soup was preceded by an antipasti spread and was then followed by baked pasta, roasted chicken and beef, mixed vegetables, and salad.  Then there was a selection of desserts. My deceased Godfather, I am certain, had a hand in all this, and he deserved to be sent on his way with this incredible and fantastic meal because he was an extraordinary cook. Especially, since when our family gathers, whatever the occasion, there will be food, fantastic food! Also, he was a good planner, so I’m sure he arranged all this in advance and had my competent cousin, Karen, who worked at Labriola’s Market (in Pittsburgh) as a cook, execute the event.

Ah, that soup.

Wedding soup is no small undertaking. You must begin with excellent chicken stock. You must make meatballs. You must cook the pasta separately. There is vast latitude for amounts of each ingredient, but still, it is a lot of preparation.

I’ve made it easy on myself by picking up frozen wedding soup meatballs (yes, it’s a thing) at Labriola’s Italian Market in Pittsburgh.  I also make chicken stock regularly, so that is always available.  Here, I’ll give you the entire operation.  I believe it’s worth the time that it takes to assemble. 

Italian Wedding Soup

For the broth:

  • 1 whole chicken, or saved chicken 
  • backs and necks, or the carcass 
  • of a previously roasted chicken
  • 1 onion
  • 5 stalks of celery including leaves
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 T salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • A handful of fresh parsley or 3 T dried parsley 

The easy way to prepare this is to put it all in your pressure cooker or Instapot, fill with water to the 2/3 line and pressure cook for an hour. It you don’t have these time-saving cooking utensils, just put all the ingredients together, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 6 hours. Strain the soup. If you used a whole chicken, you now have the meat for chicken salad. If you used bones, just strain them. You should have about two quarts of stock.

For the meatballs:

See my meatball recipe from February 2021. You will only need half the recipe, and instead of cooking the meatballs in sauce, form them into tiny orbs, about half an inch in diameter. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 350°F.

For the pasta:

Cook 3/4 cup of orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions. Then drain and return it to the pot. Stir in 1T olive oil, and reserve.

Assemble the soup:

  • Chicken broth
  • 1 carrot diced (or dice the carrot used to prepare the stock)
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, (washed and chopped) or a 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • Cooked orzo
  • Baked meatballs
  • Grated Romano cheese (as much as you like)

Put all the ingredients, except the cheese into a large soup pot, and simmer till the spinach is wilted and hot. Serve with the grated cheese.

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