This recipe comes our way from Zahra Tangorra, a Brooklyn-based chef who runs the takeout-only operation Zaza, where the menu includes her now-famous lasagna along with other heat-and-serve Italian comfort foods.

Also occasionally making an appearance on the Zaza menu is Tangorra’s Italian wedding soup, a nourishing pot of mini meatballs simmered in chicken stock along with assorted vegetables, cheese, and pasta. The soup is not a traditional dish at Italian nuptials, but rather gets its name (minestra maritata, or “married soup”) from the blissful combination of flavors therein. Regardless, Tangorra says the soup is “so romantic that it begs the question: ‘If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?”

Photo: Lauren V. Allen

There’s lots of opportunity for substitution in this recipe, from the meat you use for the meatballs (Tangorra says beef, pork, chicken, and turkey—or some combination thereof—will be fabulous in place of the lamb) to the varieties of vegetables, cheese, and pasta that get added to the broth. Its flexibility and relatively quick cooking time makes this soup one of our favorite dishes to make upon cleaning out the fridge and raiding the pantry.

Recipe: Italian Wedding Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Instructions

1.

Make the meatballs: In a medium bowl, combine the bread and milk (or water) and smush together with a fork. You don't want a total paste, just for the bread to absorb the liquid and become spongy. If it seems too dry, add a bit more liquid until you have a consistency similar to a thick oatmeal. If it seems too wet, squeeze a bit of the liquid out.

2.

Add all other ingredients and combine thoroughly, but try not to overmix, which can make your meatballs a little tough. That being said, this soup is incredibly forgiving, and if you overmix, the meatballs will still be very delicious!

3.

Divide the lamb mixture into small, marble-size meatballs (about ½ inch in diameter). Transfer to a plate or baking sheet. (The uncooked meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months.)

4.

Make the soup: Cut the leek in half lengthwise, then rinse thoroughly. Cut the leek crosswise into ¼-inch slices. In a Field Dutch Oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leek, carrot, celery, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

5.

Add the chicken stock, herb bundle, tomatoes and Pecorino chunks. Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, then cover pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.

6.

Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium high. Once the liquid is simmering aggressively (just under a boil), add the meatballs and simmer until just cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

7.

Add the fregola (or couscous) and greens, and simmer until the pasta is tender, about 12 minutes. You may notice that some cheese has stuck to the bottom of the pot a bit. Fear not! Making sure to stir the soup here and there can prevent sticking, but if you do get sticking, it will be delicious caramelized-cheese sticking. It may be annoying to clean your pot after a sticking incident, so just be mindful of that.

8.

Remove the herb bundle. Stir in the lemon zest and vinegar and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the soup among bowls and top with grated Pecorino, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Serve with crusty bread that's slathered with butter, and try not to burn the roof of your mouth, but forgive yourself if you do. This soup is delicious, and it's simply too much to ask of yourself to wait for a mini meatball to cool down before nibbling it!


Seasoning Rating: Safe

While this soup contains a smallish amount acidic tomatoes, they’re diluted by chicken stock and won’t impact the seasoning of your Dutch oven–nor will the soup do much to add seasoning to the pot.

Serve from the Dutch oven, but be sure to store in another container as soon as the soup is cool enough.

Seasoning Ratings:

Best—These dishes are the best options for building resilient seasoning, and surefire choices for getting tricky pans back on track.

Better—The best way to keep your skillet in great shape is to cook frequently, and cast iron-friendly dishes like these are your bread and butter.

Safe—These recipes won't strip seasoning away from your pan, but won't really add any, either.

OK—Be sure to clean up promptly. Recipes with this rating might feature acidic ingredients which can affect seasoning if not washed soon after cooking.

 

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