Monday, December 3, 2012

Grandma DiPietro's Italian Wedding Soup

One of my daughter's boyfriends said this looked like "Buckeye Lake" and not very appealing, but then he tasted some and liked it. That is usually what happens with this soup.

The first time I ever had Italian Wedding Soup was Christmas of 1983 when Bob and I went up to his mom's house for Christmas. She had made it and so did her mother (grandma Di Pietro) and his aunt Carol and uncle Diamond Torres. Diamond is half Mexican and half Italian and enjoys food from both sides of his family tree, and so we had Wedding Soup everywhere we went!
I thought the soup was quite disgusting. But then again, I also thought the pizzelles were quite disgusting, as well as the Easter Bread and Shodone the following Easter! It took awhile for my taste buds to get used to real Italian specialties since I am not of Italian heritage and these foods were never part of my growing up. I had to learn to love many of these foods and I have.
My mother-in-law learned to make this soup from her mother. No one ever measured out the ingredients but just eye-balled the proportions. That is how I now make it, too. And that is why the ingredients listed are not exact measurements. The meatballs are close, but honestly, if you want to make a smaller amount, cut down on the meat and the ingredients. My mother-in-law Judy, had to tell me she wasn't sure of the amount of bread crumbs, so I am assuming it is about 1-3 cups, depending on how much meat you use.. She says she can tell when she is mixing the meat if it feels like it needs more crumbs or not.
Judy almost always makes this soup in stages and freezes the food for when she wants to make the soup, which is what I will do, too, so I can make this soup for Christmas without all the work at one time. I will make the meatballs one day and freeze them, then make the endive and chicken on other days and freeze them. On Christmas Day I will pull it all out of the freezer and assemble it to cook so I will have it all ready to throw together. I will make my bread ahead of time and freeze it, too. Makes it so much easier when you are busy on Christmas Day making other foods.
My daughter Lisa had to have Italian Wedding  Soup for her wedding day as part of the food we served the guests. We sent Judy the money to buy the foods and she made it all up and froze it so she could put it together the day of the wedding. Lisa not only had to have grandma's soup, but grandma had to make it. It was quite a hit with most of our guests that day. To save on time, Judy bought the meatballs, but I won't do this as I don't like store-bought meatballs as they are made with soy and other questionable and bad for you ingredients. I'd rather Judy had made the meatballs, but since she had so graciously agreed to make the soup, I was not going to complain. It was still delicious!
I am not Italian, so you don't have to be Italian to enjoy this soup, either. My husband was raised in an Italian home where Italian foods were served regularly, and so his heritage was preserved in food. I have made sure I have passed this legacy on to our kids.
When you go to restaurants, they make their soup with spinach. Spinach is not nearly as good as the endive and so I would not suggest that you use spinach unless you truly cannot find the endive in the area where you live. The endive will seem like a lot, but then it cooks down to nothing, just like spinach and other greens do.
This soup is good any time of the year, but it is traditionally served at weddings and the major holidays. With Christmas fast approaching, I thought this would be the perfect time to post this. I hope that this soup becomes a staple for your holidays or other special times in your life.

Grandma Di Pietro's Italian Wedding Soup
                                Preheat oven to 350 degrees
For the meatballs:
2-3 pounds ground chuck*
2 eggs*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
About 2-3 cups seasoned bread crumbs*
Combine all and form into balls the size of large marbles. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Either set aside to add to soup or allow to cool so these can be frozen for later for when you want to assemble the soup.

Making the Endive:
Buy two large bunches of endive. Fill sink with cold water and swish greens in water to clean. Rinse well. Cut off stems. Chop endive into smaller pieces.
Bring a very large stock pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tsp of salt to the water. When at a full boil, add some endive. It will begin to cook down, then add some more, pushing down with a wooden spoon. Once all the endive is in the pot, cook for about 45-60 minutes until endive is cooked down and soft. Drain in a colander. Allow the endive to drain. Take your wooden spoon and press water from endive. Set aside if adding to soup, but if making for future soup making, squeeze excess water out and put into freezer bags. Label and freeze once cooled.

Making the Chicken:
We use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but you can use a whole chicken or chicken with the skin on it. You can poach the chicken in water, but I prefer to bake mine in the oven. If you poach the chicken, reserve the water broth for the soup.
Buy 3-5 chicken breasts. Wash and trim some of the excess fat off of chicken. Place on a cooking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes till done. If using bone-in chicken, you will have to adjust time. If need be, check for doneness with a meat thermometer.
Allow meat to cool some so you can handle if it is skin on meat. Remove skin, cut chicken off of bones, then cut into bite-size pieces. You can shred the chicken, but it is better when cut into bite-size pieces. If boneless, skinless chicken, just cut into bite-sized pieces.
Either set aside to add to soup or cool and add to freezer bags to freeze for future use.

Making the soup:
If you poached the chicken, take the strained broth and add it back to the pan. Add additional broth (store-bought) to make the amount that you want, usually a gallon or so of broth. You can add finely shredded carrots or very thinly sliced carrots and very thinly slices celery, if desired. Salt and pepper the broth to your liking. Mince two garlic cloves and add to the broth for added flavor. Allow the broth to come to a boil and allow to cook a few minutes to cook the vegetables, if not using Ditalini pasta. Otherwise, add the Ditalini now and allow to cook with the vegetables.
If you are using baked chicken, add a gallon of chicken broth to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Add any vegetables and the garlic as you bring to a boil. If you are using Ditalini noodles, add them with the vegetables so they can cook according to package directions.
When the noodles are cooked, add the meatballs, chicken, and endive. Stir well to incorporate and heat up to near boiling again. Add some dried parsley for color and flavor, if desired.

Serve the soup in bowls. Use the Cheese Bread (previous post) in the soup~5-6 pieces. Sprinkle Romano or Parmesan cheese in your soup. Enjoy!!!

*Make sure your ground beef and chicken are not full of hormones and antibiotics.
*Farm fresh eggs are best.
*Try to find a high-fructose corn syrup-free bread crumbs if you don't make your own.
*This really is easier to make if made in parts, frozen, then put together as it doesn't seem like so       
  much work when you do it this way.

Grandma DiPietro's Cheese Bread

Cheese Bread out of the oven on top, and cut into squares on bottom.

I have never ever seen a recipe like this anywhere, not in a cook book nor on the web. Bob's grandma had gotten this recipe from a neighbor back in the 1940's and it quickly became a tradition on Bob's DiPietro side of the family. Italian Wedding Soup is made for Christmas and Easter, and this bread is a must for the soup, at least as far as most of the family is concerned, including our kids.
This bread is not good by itself. It is dry, desert dry, eggy, and it does not taste very good alone, but in soup it sops up broth and flavor and adds an extra oomph.
This bread looks like little spongy croutons, though they are not hard. It is easily made ahead and frozen for when the soup is ready for the holidays. And though this recipe makes a large amount, we never have any leftover as the adults and kids alike gobble it up in their soup.
If you make Wedding Soup then this bread is a must.

Grandma DiPietro's Cheese Bread
                               Preheat oven to 350 degrees
8 eggs*
1/3 cup oil*
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 tsp real sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
Pepper, to taste
2 Tbls parsley, dried
1 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, or a combination

Grease a 15" x  10" x 1" jelly roll pan; set aside.
Beat eggs, add oil; beat, then flour, salt, baking powder, pepper, parsley; beat, then fold in cheese till mixed well.
Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly, then bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. The top will turn a bit tan. Let cool, then cut into 1" cubes. Makes a lot. Use for Italian Wedding Soup.

*Farm eggs are best
*Use olive oil.


Buttery Rich White Cake


Gwen and the kids came home for Thanksgiving and that Saturday was Gunner's birthday. He was going to be seven years old, and I asked him if he wanted cupcakes for his birthday (Yes!) and what kind of cake did he want? He wanted a white cake with chocolate frosting. I found this cake recipe on line and made it. It is rich, buttery and moist. It was also extremely easy to make. There were thirteen of us, but within a couple of hours all the cakes were gone! The kids loved them, as did the adults. This is not a true white cake as I did not only use egg whites, but you could do this if a truly white cake is important on your list of things to have, but Gunner never noticed that these were not white like the boxed cake mixes, he just ate his and enjoyed every bite. Which is what we all did. I just made a basic homemade chocolate frosting with butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. Riley and Harley licked the bowl and beaters clean on both the cake batter and the frosting, That's what grandmas are for, spoiling their grandkids by letting them lick things clean.
Buttery Rich White Cake
                        Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1 3/4 cups cake flour*
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tbls baking powder
3/4 tsp real sea salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature*
4 eggs*
1 cup milk*
1 tsp vanilla*
Frosting of your choice

Grease and flour a 10" x 15" pan, or three 9" or 8" pans, or line 30 -36 cupcake tins with paper liners, set aside. If making cupcakes, spray the outer pan as the cake can cook up over sides as in picture. which is what mine did as I got them a tad bit too full. This makes sure they come off easily.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a whisk, stir till well  combined.
Using an electric mixer on slow, add butter and coat the butter well with the flour, scraping sides.
Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well.
Slowly add milk and vanilla, scraping sides as you beat. Beat for 2 minutes.
Pour into prepared pans. If using cupcake pans, fill 2/3 full.
Bake at 325 degrees for:
10" x 15" bake for 30-40 minutes, testing at 30 minutes.
9" or 8" pans bake for 20-25 minutes.
Cup cake pans bake for 17-20 minutes.
Test with a toothpick to make sure cake is done.

*I bought a cake flour, but you can make your own by using flour and corn starch.
*Use only real butter. Spreads don't have enough fat in them to work properly.
*If you want a truly white cake, use only egg whites and add an extra egg or two to make up the
  difference. I used eggs from a farm which have orange-yellow yolks, so my cake came out more
  yellowish than white.
*Whole milk gives you a richer and deeper taste.
*You can add the tsp of vanilla and also a tsp of almond extract for more flavor.

Best Way to Cook Long Grain Rice

Don't ask me why, but I just cannot cook rice properly on the stove top. I don't know if I get impatient and lift the lid too often, or if I just keep the fire too high or low, but my rice has never come out very stellar whenever I've tried to cook it on the stove. I must not be the only one with this problem or there would not be rice cookers and steamers on the market.
Cooking the rice in the oven as described below always gives me lovely results. It can cook away without me having to check on it, with no worries, and it does not take up valuable stove top space.
I have added vegetables to the rice, but they seem to overcook when placed in at the beginning. I've put them in about half way through with better results. I know, you aren't supposed to disturb rice once it is cooking, but for flavor-ful vegetables, it is the only way.
If you have problems cooking rice, or if you are just looking for an easier way, try this method and see if it isn't the easiest and most care-free way you've ever used. I know it works well for me.

Best Way to Cook Long Grain Rice
                                     Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 cup long grain rice*
1/2 tsp real sea salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water*

Place rice and salt in an oven-proof 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
Stir in boiling water.
Cover with lid or heavy foil.
Bake 30-35 minutes, till water is absorbed.
Remove from oven, then allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Gently stir. Recover loosely with lid or foil till ready to use.


*For brown rice you might want to cook longer. I don't like my brown rice
  crunchy and find I must add more water or broth and cook about an hour.
*You can replace chicken or beef broth for the water for a different taste.