Welcome, from the frigid north, where overnight lows stretched down to just about -20 F, locally. Luckily, last night I made what might be one of the easiest and most delicious soups I’ve ever encountered and one of my favorites, though I’d never made it myself before.
Years ago, when I first moved to Northern Maine, Tim Horton’s carried its own version of Italian Wedding Soup, and I would drop in regularly, hoping that I might land there on a day when they were serving it. Given that I now do a lot more of my own cooking and Tim Horton’s is no longer a regular dinner haunt, I’m happy to say that I can now have this favorite, whenever I want it.
The ingredients are simple and straight-forward, as is the assembly of the soup. I used dry beans that I prepared earlier in the day, but you could easily substitute canned beans (use a whole can, rinsed) to speed up the process. Another reason to love this recipe is its use of chicken stock, which I always have kicking around in the freezer since we regularly eat roast chicken on Sundays and later produce about 3 quarts of chicken stock.
2 quarts chicken stock
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 celery rib, chopped into cubes
1/3 c. orzo
1/3 c. small white beans (this is a dry measure, before re-hydrating)
6 oz. spinach, shredded
1 Bay Leaf (optional)
1 lb. mixture of lean pork, veal and beef (you could easily use any one of these)
1/3 c. Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 t Italian seasoning mix
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese
I started my soup by melting my frozen chicken stock in a large soup pot over medium high heat until it came to a boil. Given that I don’t season my stock when I make it (beyond adding some veggies for flavor), I salted and peppered the stock before adding my carrots and celery. I also added my beans at this point because I had only quick-hydrated them and they were still a little crunchy. Once this boiled for about 10 minutes, I added the orzo and let it go another 8 minutes. I noticed, at this point, that the broth wasn’t quite flavorful enough, so I added a bay leaf (which I removed before adding the meatballs).
While the vegetables, beans and orzo were working, I combined the meat, Parmesan, breadcrumbs and seasoning in a large bowl and liberally seasoned the mixture with sea salt and ground pepper. I then combined the ingredients and rolled them into 3/4” meatballs, though, next time I think I might even go for a 1/2” meatball (even at 3/4” they were still a bit too big to take in one bite).
As soon as I was done shaping the meatballs, I added them to the boiling soup and cooked everything together for about 8 minutes, stirring regularly. Then I added my shredded spinach and cooked for another five minutes, before lowering the heat to a simmer (I was waiting for my bread to come out of the oven).
This soup was delightful with extra Parmesan, a chunk of fresh, homemade bread and glass of Pinot Noir. But the best part about this soup was how easy it was to reheat today! I just added a bit of water and had another delicious bowl for lunch.
Edited February 25: I made this soup just this past week for a group of friends with smaller, 1/3” meatballs and it was perfection!
I’m also linking up to Easy Natural Food’s Sunday Soup Night.