Barefoot Contessa Italian Wedding Soup

by Hilary Gauntt on June 3, 2012

I am just back from a fabulous trip to Italy (lucky Me!) filled with gorgeous weather and scenery, and meals that I am already reminiscing about.  When you are walking many happy miles each day,  you feel entitled to a nightly pasta appetizer! Our celebrity sighting was not a movie star, but someone more meaningful to me and Penny – Ina Garten, author of so many of our favorite cookbooks.  We encountered her twice, hundreds of miles apart in Capri and Portofino, which made us feel like we were on the right trip. So in her honor, I am posting her recipe for a popular and flavorful Italian soup.

This recipe was given to me several years ago by Linda Conover, a truly beautiful woman inside and out.  I got to know her shortly after she lost her youngest son Cory.  She wrote on the recipe that they found  a pot of this on their doorstep when  they returned from taking Cory’s ashes to the Mission at San Luis Rey, and that it was the best soup she had ever tasted. I imagine she could taste the love it was prepared with.

For the meatballs:

3/4 lb. ground chicken

1/2 lb.  chicken sausage, casings removed

2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs

2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)

3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving

3 Tbs. milk

1 extra large egg, lightly beaten

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Soup:

2 Tbs. good olive oil

1 cup minced yellow onion

1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots) cut into 1/4 inch pieces

3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks) cut into 1/4 inch pieces

10 cups homemade (if possible) chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars

1/4 cup minced fresh dill

12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan,,milk, egg, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.  With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4 inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.)  Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender.  Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for one minute.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for one minute, until the spinach is just wilted.  Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

Note:  I used Italian turkey sausage, ground turkey and a half cup of Parmesan for the meatballs as I had no Pecorino.  I guarantee you will be popping these delicious little balls into your mouth as the soup is simmering…they would make a great appetizer or addition to a pasta dish. I read a terrific suggestion about this soup online…in order to keep the spinach beautiful; instead of adding it to the pot,  add some to each bowl and then ladle the hot soup over it and stir to wilt.  This way even  the leftover soup will have the same fresh tasting, barely wilted spinach.

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Romeo July 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

I got this one from from Ina Gardner on the Barefoot Contessa show on Foodnetwork, and it is very good. Actually almost all her reecpis are wonderful. I am a big fan of hers!!Provencal Vegetable Soup 2 tablespoons good olive oil2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 to 4 leeks)3 cups 1/2-inch-diced unpeeled boiling potatoes (1 pound)3 cups 1/2-inch-diced carrots (1 pound)1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper3 quarts homemade chicken stock or canned broth1 teaspoon saffron threads1/2 pound haricots verts, ends removed and cut in 1/24 ounces spaghetti, broken in pieces1 cup Pistou, recipe followsFreshly grated Parmesan, for serving Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot, add the onions, and saute9 over low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the leeks, potatoes, carrots, salt, and pepper and saute9 over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and saffron, bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the haricots verts and spaghetti, bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 more minutes.To serve, whisk 1/4 cup of the pistou into the hot soup, then season to taste. Depending on the saltiness of your chicken stock, you may need to add up to another tablespoon of salt. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and more pistou. Pistou:4 large garlic cloves1/4 cup tomato paste24 large basil leaves1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan1/2 cup good olive oilPlace the garlic, tomato paste, basil, and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and puree. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil down the feed tube to make a paste. Pack into a container, pour a film of olive oil on top, and close the lid. Yield 1 cup.

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