Folklore tells us that what has come to be known as Italian Wedding Soup began as a dish traditionally served to the bride and groom at their wedding reception. However, that story is not exactly true. Italian Wedding Soup gained its name, not from the occasion that might bring it to the table but rather from the harmony of its ingredients. The name of the dish in English, “wedding soup”, actually means “married soup” (minestra maritata) in Italian. The modern Americanized version of wedding soup is a far lighter dish than the original, which was a rib-sticking dish intended as the main (and sometimes only) meal of the day. The Italian Wedding Soup history also has ties with America, where it was brought here by the Neapolitan immigrants. In Italy, the soup went out of fashion around the time the immigrants took their recipe with them to America. There are many, many versions of this soup. Below is my version of the dish and the one my family loves. This soup tastes better if made a day ahead.

Italian Wedding Soup

For the meatballs:

1 pound lean ground chicken
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 medium stalks celery with leaves, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
12 cups chicken broth
1 cup small pasta, such as ditalini
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.

For the meatballs:

Place the ground chicken, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, Parmesan, cream, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
Form 1 inch balls (I use a small cookie scoop) and drop the meatballs onto the prepared pan They don’t have to be perfectly round. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

For the soup:

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the Italian seasoning and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan.

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