Italian Wedding Soup with Italian Chicken Sausage Meatballs

My family loves a hearty, soulful supper- soup on chilly fall and winter evenings, and this is one of our favorites. It’s named for it’s perfect marriage of flavors, packed with herbs, greens, and satisfying meatballs. I made it first inspired by Ina Garten’s recipe, which is amazing! But I started to have fun making it with more vegetables and herbs, leaving out the dairy and gluten, and making my own sweet Italian chicken sausage instead of adding in one from the deli case. You could add in small pasta (gluten free if that’s how you roll) that you’ve cooked in advance to the pot in the last minute of cooking and top with with a generous heap of cheese (if that’s your thing!) You could switch out the greens, throw in some basil, use ground turkey. This soup has plenty of ways to make it your own marriage of deliciousness. For the brightest, freshest flavor, stir in the dill at the very last minute.

Italian Wedding Soup with Italian Chicken Sausage Meatballs

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for the meatballs:

2 garlic cloves

8 fresh basil leaves

3 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, removed from stems

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

A pinch of red chile flakes

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

1 pound ground chicken

1 egg, whisked

Ingredients for the soup:

About a tablespoon of best quality olive oil

1 cup of sliced carrots

1 cup of sliced celery

1 cup of diced fennel root

1 cup of diced white or yellow onions

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 bunch of red, Swiss or rainbow chard, leaves stripped from the stem and roughly chopped, stems chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/ 2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, broken up into pieces, or diced tomatoes

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

6 cups of best quality chicken stock

1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill

Optional add ins: Small pasta, like orzo or pastina, cooked al dente and freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 Instructions for the meatballs:

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Put the garlic, basil, parsley, fennel seeds and chile flakes in the bowl of a food processor, mini processor or bullet, and pulse until very fine. Put the ground chicken into a large bowl and add the herb and spice mixture, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, then mix thoroughly to combine. Using a 1-ounce scoop, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 20 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 25- 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

While the meatballs cook, prepare the soup: heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the carrots, celery, fennel, onion, garlic, and chard leaves and stems and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season the mixture with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Add the wine, tomato paste and canned tomatoes. Reduce the wine and tomatoes, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cook the soup until the carrots and celery are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the meatballs (and small, cooked pasta, if adding) to the soup and simmer for 1 minute to heat all of the way through. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if more is needed. Turn off the heat and add in the fresh dill. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

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