Italian Wedding Soup

April 2, 2012

When I saw this recipe I was sure that I wouldn’t like it. The picture of the pale, grey meatballs looked completely unappetizing; yuck. It would have never occurred to me to make meatballs without browning them in a skillet, but that is exactly what this recipe required me to do. In the end, the boiled meatballs turned out very tender and flavorful. The surprising truth of the matter is that the soup is delicious; further evidence that you should never judge a book by it’s cover. 4-stars.

Surprisingly delicious despite the mealy meatballs


  1. Psychologically anything so pale and grey cannot possibly be delicious. But if you can get past their mealy complexion, the meat was tender. The mixture of beef and pork, fortified with grated onion and garlic, had great flavor.
  2. I was surprised that this recipe only yielded 6 bowls of soup.  I usually have leftovers whenever I make soup, but the pot ran dry just before all our bellies were filled (having skipped lunch in favor of an early dinner).
  3. It is impossible to buy just 10-oz of ground pork and beef. The smallest available packages were 1 pound each. I embraced the surplus and doubled the meatball recipe (listed below is the non-doubled quantities) and will make meatball sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.
  4. While my supermarket does not sell fennel bulb, they do sell anise bulbs (which looks identical to fennel). So either my supermarket mislabeled it as anise, or they are so similar that they are interchangeable. My belief is that it was incorrectly labelled.
  5. The original recipe calls for 6 cups of kale (12-oz), but it only took 9-oz to make the 6-cups of kale. However, I cut my descriptions below down to 4 cups (6-ozs). To compensate I increased the pasta from 1 cup to 1-1/2 cups.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $13.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:45 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1 onion
1 fennel bulb (or anise if that’s how you supermarket calls it)
4 garlic cloves
1/4-oz dried porcini mushrooms
4-oz ground pork
4-oz 85% lean ground beef
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1-1/2 cup ditalini pasta
6-oz kale (4 cups)

1 slice hearty white sandwich bread
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4-cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 teaspoons finely grated onion
1/2 teaspoon finely grated garlic
Salt and pepper
6-oz ground pork
1 teaspoon baking powder
6-oz 85% lean ground beef
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano

  1. Chop onion, and rinse your dried mushrooms. Peel your garlic cloves and smash them. Discard the fennel’s stalks, cut the bulb in half, remove the triangluar-shaped core, and chop the fennel. The exact size of your choppings is not so important, because it will eventually get strained and discarded.
  2. Set a Dutch oven over medium-high burner. Add chopped onion, rinsed mushrooms, smashed garlic, chopped fennel, bay leaf, 4-oz of ground beef, 4-oz of ground pork. Saute for 5 minutes until the meat is no longer pink. Add 1/2-cup white wine and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and continue to cook for 1 minute, before adding water, chicken and beef broth. Bring up to a simmer, then cover, reduce to low heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, remove crust from 1 slice of sandwich bread and rip into 1″ pieces. Add to large bowl. Grate 1/2 onion on small holes of a box grater, add 4 teaspoons grated onion to the bowl. Grate 2 garlic gloves, add 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic to the bowl. Add grated Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, and season with ground black pepper. Mash into a paste with a fork.
  4. Add 6-oz ground pork, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon table salt to the bowl of a standing mixer. Use the paddle attachment and beat on high for 2 minutes until the meat becomes smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add beef, oregano and mashed bread. Mix at medium/low speed for 2 minutes to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once. Keep your hands slightly moist, scope a heaping teaspoon of meat into your hands and roll into 35 to 40 smooth meatballs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. When the broth is finished, strain soup through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Use a rubber spatula to press on the solids to yield as much soup as possible. Wipe any remaining solids from your Dutch oven and pour the soup back into the pot.
  6. Remove kale stems and cut into 1/2″ pieces. Set your Dutch oven over a medium-high burner and bring up to a simmer. Add the pasta and kale and cook for 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Add meatballs to pot and bring back up to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 5 more minutes, checking to make sure the meatballs are completely cooked. Adjust salt and pepper according to taste and serve in individual bowls.

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