I’ve talked about my sweet ‘ole grandmom, Anna, a few times on this blog. This was a woman who waited tables at the Golden Nugget (now Bally’s Grand) casino (R.I.P.) in Atlantic City until she retired at 76. This is the same woman who would wear winter gloves in the summer because her tiny hands would get cold. Once she angrily blamed the family for “stealing” her gloves, only to open up the dishwasher to unload and found them stuck to a few plates. This was also a woman who would wrap up uneaten meals and sandwiches from her shift at the restaurant and pawn them on us. This was also a woman who was so excited to get 8 free place settings of Golden Nugget-labeled china before it became Bally’s (thank god she did not feature these prominently in her non-existent china cabinet!).
This was also a woman who would cook for her family every night but passed virtually no family recipes on to me. I still get sad that I didn’t push her more to try and remember all her old-school recipes before she died. She loved to say in her deep, raspy voice, “Oh, Amy, ya know I don’t remember how to do that!”. But even into her final years, Anna could still make a few of her classics really, really well, and without a recipe. One of my favorites was her ‘Scarole soup – that’s Italian-American speak for “Escarole Soup” or, as it is often called in my family, Italian Wedding Soup.
When researching about the origins of Italian Wedding Soup I discovered that, duh, this is only loosely based on a traditional Italian soup called Minestra Maritata and has nothing to do with weddings (the name literally means a marriage of soup). Minestra Maritata is a Neapolitan soup made with greens and meat, hence the “marriage” of those two ingredients.
In my Italian-American fantasy, my great grandparents on my grandmom’s side came from Naples and brought their Minestra Maritata recipe with them to the new world. Over time, the pieces of meat became tiny meatballs and the greens were the cheap and delicious escarole. Too bad… I’ll never be able to ask my grandmom if my fantasy is true! There are many variations of this soup but, of course, I think Anna’s is the best. You could have this done from start to finish in about 1/2 hour.
ANNA’S ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP (AKA ‘SCAROLE)
Ingredients for Meatballs:
- 1/2 pound minced veal
- 1/2 pound minced pork
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano
- pinch of garlic powder
- pinch of onion powder
- 2 tablespoons of parsley
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (maybe more if mixture is too wet)
- salt and pepper
- 8 to 10 cups of chicken stock
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 head of escarole, bottom chopped off and greens cleaned (chop in half if you don’t like long greens)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup parmigiano reggiano
- 1/2 box ditalini pasta (some people use pastina)
What to do:
- To make meatballs: Add all the top ingredients together and mix with hands. Pinch a bit of the mixture and roll into a small ball. Each meatball should not be more than an inch wide.
- Heat up a bit of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and fry the baby meatballs on each side – about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on some paper towels.
- Meanwhile, in another pot, add a bit of oil and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until a bit softer. Add the chicken stock and keep at a simmer. Add the escarole.
- Add the pasta, stir it around and allow to cook in the stock – keep aware of the time so you don’t cause the pasta to go mushy. About two minutes before the pasta is done, add the meatballs back to the pot.
- Beat together the two eggs along with the parmigiano reggiano. When pasta is done, kill the heat and slowly add the egg/parmigiano mixture to the soup while stirring.
- Serve in big bowls with some crusy bread and a glass of chianti.
- Be aware that the pasta keeps soaking up the liquid after cooking, so this is a soup that needs to be eaten immediately. Alternatively, you could cook the pasta separately and add in as much of it as you want to, reserving some for leftovers so they aren’t soggy.
Check out some other posts you may enjoy:
- Chicken with Figs
- South African Hot Toddies
- Fried Lamb Chops with Balsamic Rosemary Reduction
- Italian Roasted Pork with Salsa Verde