Winter is well on its way, which means it is time to start stocking up on soup! This cooking session I chose 2 Italian soups from the box. The first is “Holiday Soup”, which is very similar to Italian wedding soup. This was my mom’s favorite soup to make, in addition to her Tortellini soup (to be cooked in another session). The second soup, Zuppa di Fagioli con la Pasta is basically a variation of pasta fagioli soup.
There were a few ingredients needed that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find at my local grocery store, but I was pleasantly surprised to find escarole for the Holiday Soup right away in the produce section, and “salt pork” for the Zuppa di Fagioli, which I had never heard of before but I was able to find with the prepared pork in the meat section. For the additional ham for the zuppa, I decided to use ham off the bone from the deli counter.
The first step of the cooking process was to make exactly one million tiny meatballs for the Holiday Soup. For that big undertaking, I enlisted the help of my friend/panelist Gordon from Manayunk! Aren’t our aprons adorable? If you are taking on this task by yourself, you can always roll out the meatballs the night before and put them in an airtight container overnight. Or, just anticipate at least a half hour to your prep time for this step.
With this recipe, you actually get a DOUBLE family recipe – the meatballs are our family’s preferred method as well. Mom never used any binders or fillers (like eggs or breadcrumbs) and I really appreciate the non-gussied up flavor of these nothing-but-meat balls. The rest of the soup comes together super quickly, boil broth, add raw meatballs, simmer, add greens and seasonings, then serve (I opted to omit the eggs because I was freezing the soup after). Nice!
For the Zuppa Fagioli, I opted to use canned beans (instead of starting with dried beans), which cut significant time off of the cooking process. The original recipe called for the use of salt pork to help enrich the soup broth, but the soup came out incredibly salty because of it. The recipe I list below omits the salt pork; the broth and ham off the bone will give enough flavor to the soup without it. After chopping up and sauteing the ham and veggies, you bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and simmer. Then, [after removing the salt pork] you remove half of the ham and beans and puree them, whisking them back into the soup. This thickens up the broth and makes a nice creamy soup. Add pasta, and serve with a little cheese on top. This would also be great with a nice rustic bread.
The Holiday Soup came out fantastic – just like mom used to make. When I make it again, I think I am going to switch to turkey meatballs, just personal preference. Gordon also highly approved of the soup! The Zuppa Fagioli also came out better than I expected. The Ditalini pasta was a perfect pairing with the beans, and the ham off the bone was also really great flavoring. As mentioned above, I think it came out a little salty but that’s an easy fix for next time. Gordon also really liked this soup as well! Both soups were a success, and the Holiday Soup can also be easily veganized 🙂 .
Ingredients – serves 4 to 5
1lb ground beef
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP garlic powder
1/2 TBSP savory
1 TBSP worcestershire sauce
fresh cracked salt & pepper
8C (64oz) low sodium chicken broth
1 large head of escarole, rinsed & roughly chopped
2-3 TBSP lemon juice
salt & pepper, garlic powder
3 beaten eggs (optional)
grated aged parmesan
To make meatballs, mix ground beef with spices, adding salt & pepper to taste. Roll into small, half inch meatballs. Set aside. In large pot, bring broth to a boil. Reduce to low heat and carefully add in meatballs and escarole. Simmer for about 15 minutes until meatballs are cooked. Add lemon juice and seasonings to taste. If desired, bring back to a boil and stir in beaten eggs just before serving. Serve with parmesan.
ProTips: To make this process less daunting, you can make the meatballs ahead and keep them in the fridge overnight or freeze them until you are ready to use in the soup. You could also use ground turkey or chicken for the meatballs, just omit the worcestershire sauce for the chicken. If you plan on freezing the soup after your meal, do not add in egg as it will not freeze well.
Vegan ProTips: Substitute vegan sausage of your choosing and veggie broth to make an equally delicious soup!
Zuppa di Fagioli con la Pasta
Ingredients – serves 4 to 5
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2lb cooked ham off the bone, diced
1/2 C onion, diced
1/4 C celery, diced
1/2 TSP minced garlic
4C (32oz) low sodium chicken broth
(3) 15.5oz cans of cannellini beans
1C dry small pasta (I used ditalini)
salt & pepper, grated aged parmesan
[1/4 lb salt pork – note, this was omitted in final recipe]
In a large pot, heat pan over medium high heat. Add oil and reduce heat to medium. Add ham, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add water and broth and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for an hour. Using a strainer or slotted spoon, remove half of the beans/ham. In a food processor, puree beans/ham with a tiny bit of broth. When creamy, whisk back into the soup. Bring to a boil and add in pasta. Reduce heat and partially cover, cooking for 10 minutes or to desired pasta texture. Season to taste and serve with parmesan.