Italian Wedding Soup is a delicious and hearty soup, that’s filling enough to be served as a main course. Here it’s been made it a little healthier, by swapping in ground turkey in the meatballs, and by adding lots of veggies.
Healthier Italian Wedding Soup
Time: 40 minutes Servings: 6-8
- 8 cups of low sodium chicken broth, homemade or store bought
- Rind from a wedge of Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- A few grinds of fresh pepper
- 1 pound (454gr) of ground turkey
- 1 cup of finely chopped carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
- 1 cup of finely chopped celery (about 2 medium stalks)
- 1/2 cup of tiny pasta, such as Peperini or orzo
- 2 cups of packed fresh baby spinach (this is about 2 good handfuls)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Extra Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large stock pot, bring broth to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the Parmesan rind, cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer. Stir occasionally to make sure the rind isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
While the broth simmers, make the meatballs. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, Parmesan, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Add the ground turkey, and mix with your hands until the lemon zest mixture is evenly distributed throughout the ground meat. Using finger tips, gently form the turkey mixture into 1/2” balls. Don’t roll or compact the meatballs too much, or they’ll be hard and tough. If the mixture is sticky, wet your finger tips as needed in a small bowl of water to make handling the meat mixture easier.
Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and transfer to the oven until cooked through and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. (Make ahead: Meatballs can be made to this point up to 2 days in advance. Cool, then refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use. Can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month.)
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the cooking time indicated on the package. Drain the pasta and set aside.
Drop the meatballs, chopped carrots and celery to the gently simmering broth and stir. Simmer for 10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add the cooked pasta, stir to combine and simmer for a minute or two. Add the spinach and simmer just until wilted. Remove the Parmesan rind and taste the broth. If the broth has become too concentrated, add 1/2 cup of water at a time, tasting in between additions, to thin as needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve with the extra grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for sprinkling over top.
This soup is a full meal in a bowl. For an extra hungry crowd, I serve it with crusty bread on the side and a grazing board of cold meats, olives, sliced melon, cucumber rounds and cherry tomatoes.
Red wine all the way! Zinfandel and Sangiovese are great matches for both the turkey and the Parmesan cheese.
- Let’s talk about simmering because getting it just right can be tricky. Simmering means to heat a liquid to just below boiling. So what does that look like? Watch for constant smaller bubbles breaking the surface of the broth with frequent wisps of steam. Every cook top is a little different, but setting the dial to medium-low heat usually does the trick. The goal of simmering in this recipe is to impart the stock with the flavour from the cheese and cook the vegetables, without too much evaporation. Adjust the heat as you go to get the right level, but if too much water ends up evaporating and the broth becomes too concentrated, don’t worry. Add water, 1/2 cup at a time, until it tastes right to you.
- Why the extra step of cooking the meatballs in the oven? Can’t I just drop the uncooked meatballs into the pot and cook them in the simmering broth? Sure you can, but keep a couple of things in mind before cutting that corner. Cooking them at high temperature in the oven causes some browning on the meatballs that adds a nice flavour to the soup. It also renders some of the fat and draws out some proteins, which stay behind on the baking sheet. If you cook the meatballs directly in the broth, you will need to skim off the foam from the fat and proteins that form on the surface. Keep in mind that the broth will be cloudier. Sometimes on a busy night, to save time I’ve cooked the meatballs directly in the soup and it’s still been delicious. Cloudier broth and skimming required? Yes, but still delicious. Add the uncooked meatballs before the vegetables and test one by cutting it in half to make sure it’s cooked through before serving.
- How much salt you will need will depend on the original salt content of your broth, how much your broth has reduced and of course personal preference. If you’re serving the soup with additional cheese for sprinkling over top, keep in mind that the cheese is very salty so don’t over do it when adjusting the salt at the end of preparation.