Have you ever eaten Italian Wedding Soup at a wedding? Probably not, and there's a good reason why: the name for this dish most likely comes from a mistranslation of the classic Neapolitan soup Minestra Maritato, which translates to "married soup". The soup's name doesn't refer to a marriage between people, but to how well the meat and greens work together in the soup.
Like Minestra Maritata, Italian Wedding Soup combines meat and greens, usually meatballs and spinach. My version is fairly simple to make. Just keep a few things in mind and you'll have a great gluten-free soup.
The pasta: The cooking water for gluten-free pasta tends to get really cloudy. To keep your soup clear (and appetizing), cook the gluten-free pasta in a separate pot. Since the pasta continues to cook when transferred to the soup, cook it until it's just al dente or you'll have mushy pasta in the soup.
The greens: I use baby spinach in this recipe. It cooks quickly and I like the delicate flavor. If you don't like spinach or want a more robust green, try swapping it for kale, escarole, or even endive. When using a tougher green like kale, increase the cooking time. The greens should be tender, no matter which type you use.
The broth: I prefer to use homemade chicken stock when making soup, but I don't always have homemade chicken stock on hand. In that case, use premade, gluten-free, reduced sodium chicken broth, such as Kitchen Basics.
- Active time: about two hours
- Total time:about two hours
- For the Meatballs
- 1 pound (93 percent) lean ground beef
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or put through a garlic press
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons plain gluten-free dried breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg
- For the Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into coins (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into thin pieces (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or put through a garlic press
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced sodium gluten-free chicken broth
- 3 cups water
- 5 ounces baby spinach, washed
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 2 cups uncooked gluten-free bite-sized pasta shells
Make the meatballs: Spray a baking sheet lightly with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground beef, Parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, and black pepper. Using your hands, or a wooden spoon, mix beef until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Add egg and bread crumbs. Mix until combined.
Pinch off about two teaspoons of meatball mixture and roll into balls. Place meatballs on greased baking sheet. Set baking sheet aside.
Make the Soup: Heat olive oil in a large (5 1/2 quart) pot over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking. Add carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until carrots begin to soften, about three minutes. Add celery, onions, garlic and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about two minutes.
Add chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Once the soup reaches a boil, add meatballs, one at a time. After you’ve added half the meatballs, stir soup gently with a wooden spoon. Add remaining meatballs and stir. Allow to cook for five minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer (look for occasional gentle bubbles) for about 20 minutes.
While soup simmers, cook pasta. Fill a medium (4 quart) pot 3/4 full with water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When water reaches a boil, add 2 teaspoons of salt and pasta. Stir pasta with a wooden spoon for a few seconds to keep it from sticking. Cook pasta until just al dente. Drain pasta and add to soup.
Add baby spinach. Stir soup with a wooden spoon. Cook until spinach is wilted and tender, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.