Soup Swap: Italian Wedding Soup Recipe Recipe
Soup Swap: Italian Wedding Soup Recipe

by Kathy Gunst (Zester Daily)

For your next potluck, try a soup swap and let the healing powers of a steaming hot bowl of Italian Wedding soup provide comfort.

I want to sit around a table sharing comfort food with people I love. That's where soup comes in.

Think about it: Soup is what so many of our mothers and grandmothers served us when we were children and had the flu, or a cold. (Even if it meant opening a can and heating it up, it was still an act of love.) It's healing food. And healing is exactly what we need these days.

My new book, "Soup Swap" (Chronicle Books, 2016) is all about sharing soup and building community. The idea is quite simple. Think of a cookie swap, only a whole lot healthier.

I've been part of a neighborhood soup swap group in my town in southern Maine for six years. We've been sharing soup, recipes and stories and, with each passing winter, the soups improve and the friendships deepen.

Here's some tips for starting your own soup swap -- be it with neighbors, family, a yoga group, a book club, the PTO, etc.

The Basics: Setting Up Your Soup Swap

Every month the dinner is held in a different home. The hosts provide a side dish (salad or a light, simple dish); bread, biscuits or cornbread (store-bought or homemade); and dessert (think fruit, cookies, pie or brownies).

Each guest brings a pot of one of their favorite soups, and you have a party. At the end of the night, everyone goes home with six or eight types of soup -- rather than getting stuck with the same old pot all week. Do the math: You cook once and go home with many potential meals. A win-win!

Soup swaps work with two people or 20. But, being practical, most cooks only have a four-burner stove top -- at max six or eight -- so you don't want to invite too many people. But you can also use wood stoves, portable burners, slow cookers or an outdoor gas grill, depending on where you live. If you want to have a big soup-swap party, think about heating the lighter soups first, swapping pots, and then reheating the heavier, more main-course type soups.

Ask everyone to bring a pot of soup, any toppings to serve with their soup, containers for leftovers and a ladle for serving. Most ladles look exactly alike, so put colored string or tape with your name on yours.

While the soups simmer: Exchange recipes and, go around the room and share a short story about your soup -- why you made it and what's special about it. Sharing food, stories and friendship is what soup swaps are all about.

Setting Up

Providing the basics: The host provides spoons, bowls, napkins, forks and plates if needed.

Serving dishes: For serving, you'll want small bowls, mugs or 1/2-cup ramekins. Tasting four, five or six soups is incredibly filling, so you really just want a tasting portion as opposed to a main-course-size bowlful. The vessels don't need to match; an eclectic collection looks great.

Make your stove neat: Remove everything from your stove-top burners to make room for the soup pots. Heat the soups, serve and then heat up the remaining soups. If you need a burner for reheating a topping, be sure to let the host know ahead of time. Burner space becomes precious at soup swaps. In general, it's best to prepare toppings at home or reheat them in the oven if need be.

Drinks: Seltzer? Soda? Hard or regular cider? Juice? You can ask the host to provide soft drinks, coffee and tea and have the guests bring a bottle of whatever else they would like to drink. We found that soup goes incredibly well with both red and white wine, beer and hard cider.

Portions: Be sure to pace yourself by sampling only a small portion of each soup. You want to taste them all without getting too full. A big pot of soup is plenty for everyone to have a sampling at the party as well have enough to take home leftovers.

The Party's Over: Packing Up

Leftovers and packing it up: You can use mason jars, leftover plastic yogurt containers, take-out containers or zip-tight plastic bags. Be sure to label the soups, so you remember what you've got once you get home.

Storage tips: Soups will keep covered in the refrigerator for about four days, or in the freezer for up to six months. Freezing soups with a lot of dairy -- like chowders and cream-based soups -- isn't a great idea. Try to consume them within a few days.

Soup Swap: Italian Wedding Soup Recipe

Soup Swap: Italian Wedding Soup Recipe Recipe

Makes 15 to 20 tasting portions or 10 to 12 full servings.

There are conflicting stories about how this soup got its name. Here's what I know: It's Italian and generally made with chicken stock, vegetables, small meatballs, Swiss chard or escarole, and tiny pasta. What most of the sto­ries have in common is that the ingre­dients are said to "marry," or come together, in a beautiful, loving soup. Although the method for making the meatballs is listed first, you can easily accomplish the task while the soup is simmering. Often eggs and cheese are stirred into the stock at the end, like an Italian egg-drop soup, but I like to keep the soup a bit more straightforward.

Soup Swap: Italian Wedding Soup Recipe Ingredients

For the meatballs:

8 ounces (230 grams) ground beef

8 ounces (230 grams) ground pork or veal

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (40 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup (40 grams) bread crumbs or panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

1/4 cup (15 grams) packed finely chopped fresh parsley

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

For the soup:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch (12-millimeter) pieces

4 large celery stalks with leaves, thinly sliced

2 cups (480 grams) canned diced or crushed tomatoes with their juice

1/3 cup (20 grams) packed thinly sliced fresh basil

1/4 cup (15 grams) packed finely chopped fresh parsley

12 cups (2.8 liters) basic chicken stock or roasted chicken stock

1/2 cup (50 grams) orzo or other small pasta shape, like stars or tubetini

1 pound (455 grams) Swiss chard or escarole with stems, cut into ribbon-like shreds

Garnishes:

1/2 cup (40 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup (15 grams) packed thinly sliced fresh basil

1/2 cup (30 grams) packed finely chopped fresh parsley

Soup Swap: Italian Wedding Soup Recipe Directions

To make the meatballs:

1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, egg, Parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic, basil, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix well, making sure that all the ingredients are evenly incorpo­rated. Divide the mixture into 30 small meatballs.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding the skillet, cook the meatballs, rolling them around in the hot skillet, for about 3 minutes, or until evenly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining meatballs. Set aside.

To make the soup:

1. In a large stockpot over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, shallots, and garlic; season with salt and pepper; and cook for 10 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, and parsley and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn the heat to high, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

2. When the soup has finished simmering, remove the lid and add the meatballs. Turn the heat to medium and heat the soup until it begins to simmer. Then, turn the heat to medium-low, add the pasta and Swiss chard, and simmer, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the pasta is almost tender, or al dente, and the meatballs are cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

3. Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, sprinkle with any or all the garnishes, and serve.

To go:

After adding the meat­balls to the soup, take the soup off the heat. Add the pasta and Swiss chard but do not return the soup to the heat. At the party, reheat the soup and simmer until the pasta is almost tender and the meatballs are cooked through. Pack the gar­nishes in separate containers.

 

Copyright 2016 Kathy Gunst via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express

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