The last time I made this dish I left out the garlic and onions—daughter Miriam has not been handling alliums well lately. This time I am making it as a weekday dinner for those family members who love garlic and onions. I made a couple of changes—like using tomato paste and canned tomatoes, instead of fresh—to make things easier for me.
For my meat balls I started with a mild Italian sausage. The last time I made these meat balls I made half-tablespoon sized meatballs. I found these still too large for soups, when you do not want to slop around trying to cut up meatballs that are too large to conveniently eat in one bite. One teaspoon turned out to be the perfect “spoon-able” size.
Note: These meatballs would also make an excellent hor d’oeuvre with a marinara dipping sauce.
A problem with simply throwing a raw meatball into hot soup is that they sometimes just falls apart—leaving you with little bits of meat floating in your soup. The usual solution to this problem is to fry them a bit to set the meat. With so many small meatballs I chose to put them on a small baking sheet and broil them 10 minutes. They came out crispy, browned and ready to toss into the soup at the last minute.
Note: A second advantage was—that the meatballs were so small—that they browned on both sides and did not need to be flipped half way through broiling.
Karl’s Weekday Italian Wedding Soup
⅓ cup dry sherry
1 tsp. Thai fish sauce
¼ tsp. pepper, cracked
Add milk to make half a cup
½ cup bread crumbs
½ lb. Mild Italian sausage
1 green onion, minced
1 Tbs. flat leafed parsley, minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, coarsely diced
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz.) fire roasted tomatoes, diced
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
½ cup flat-leafed parsley, coarsely chopped
1. Put the sherry, fish sauce, pepper, and milk in a small bowl.
2. Mix in the bread crumbs—the bread soaks up the moisture and thickens the mixture—and let it rest for five minutes.
Tip: This is called a panade.
3. Separate the pork sausage into small pieces in a medium bowl and add the panade.
4. Add the onion and parsley to the meat.
5. Mix the meat well and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Tip: Squeezing the meat through your fingers is the most efficient way of getting a good mix.
Note: Normally, you would have to worry about overworking the meat while you are doing this—creating tough meat balls—but with sausage the proteins are already linked up—that is the nature of sausage. The reason for using so much bread crumbs in the panade is to tenderize the meat by spreading these links out.
6. Use a one teaspoon scoop to measure the meat mixture and roll them into balls.
7. Lay the balls out on a Pam-ed baking sheet, so that they are not touching each other.
Note: This recipe made fifty tiny meat balls. While you could use them all, I decided that in this soup that would be over the top. I froze half of the meatballs for another meal.
8. Broil 2 inched from the heating element for 10 minutes.
Tip: The meatballs should be well browned when they are done.
Note: While the bread crumbs will soak up much of the sausage grease—after you remove the meatball—you may add some hot water to the pan to scrape off any fond to add to your broth.
9. Set the meatballs aside to cool when done.
10. Chop, slice and/or grate all of your vegetables and set them aside.
Tip: If you wish, you may chop the carrot—instead of grating it. I personally do not like the texture of cooked carrots. As a result, I grate the carrots, so that they break down into the broth.
11. Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and sauté the onions and celery, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
12. Add the carrot and continue sautéing for 2-3 more minutes.
13. Pull the vegetables to the sides off the pot and add the garlic and tomato paste—on separate sides—in the hole in the center of the pot.
14. Sauté until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste is starting to brown.
Tip: You may need to stir the garlic into the vegetables to keep it from burning, as it takes less time than the tomato paste.
15. Add the canned tomatoes with all of its juices to the pot.
Tip: Use this liquid to deglaze the bottom of the pot.
16. Add the chicken bone broth, bullion paste, herbs, and pepper to the pot and bring to a boil.
17. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
18. Add the meatballs, zucchini, bell peppers, and spinach tortellini to the pot.
19. Continue simmering the soup for 3 more minutes.
20. Add the spinach and half of the parsley to the soup.
Tip: Reserve the rest of the parsley for garnish.
21. Simmer the soup for a final 2 minutes.
22. Transfer the soup to individual bowls and garnish with the parsley.