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!!!

Tips:
*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.

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