This post is in partnership with Progresso Foods. Thanks for supporting the brands that make Brooklyn Supper possible.
Italian wedding soup has confounded me for the longest time. Why would anyone want soup at a wedding? The thought of tiny splashes of broth on silk dresses and crisp worsted wool suits makes me shudder. Though it’s clear to me that weddings and a brothy meatball soup do not mix, I’ve always assumed the Italians, creators of so much deliciousness and Milanese fashion, know something I don’t.
And, it turns out, they do. There’s a slight mistranslation at the core – it’s not actually wedding soup, it’s minestra maritata – literally marriage soup, and represents the union of flavors, not people. The flavors in question are bitter greens and pork, a dynamic combination that is greater, better, and brighter than the sum of its parts. People, bitter greens and pork have married well.
The traditionalists, or Italians, out there will want me to mention that minestra maritata is an old Italian dish made with bits of pork and definitely not meatballs. But my take does, both because the Italian-American version was a simpler recipe and because a couple of herbed Parmesan meatballs are a wonderful reward for eating a soup full of supple, healthful greens. But my take does, both because the Italian-American version often includes them and because a couple of herbed Parmesan meatballs are a wonderful reward for eating a soup full of supple, healthful greens. It’s fitting that this recipe is made in partnership with Progresso Foods, since their quality ingredients, like the Vegetable Cooking Stock and Plain Panko Crispy Breadcrumbs used here, are rooted in their own Italian-American heritage.
Spring greens – often bitter, spicy, and incredibly grassy – can be a challenge, and I was after a soup that would present these difficult greens in the best possible way. Though escarole is traditional, I opted for a bunch of very punchy dandelion greens and a few handfuls of young spicy greens like mustard greens, mizuna, tatsoi, and arugula. The flavor of the soup should be built slowly, and will ideally end up with a solidly briny broth to balance the kick of the greens. The soup is finished with shaved Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon, and makes for a wonderfully fortifying spring meal.
- For the Meatballs
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cupProgresso Plain Panko Crispy Breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon lard or heat-tolerant cooking oil for searing meatballs
- For the Soup
- 1/4 cup lard, bacon fat, or vegetable fat
- 1 onion, trimmed and minced
- 1 carrot, scrubbed and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
- 1/2 bunch dandelion greens (2 1/2 ounces), rinsed well and chopped
- 2 big handfuls spicy baby greens (2 1/2 ounces), rinsed
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 4 cups Progresso Vegetable Cooking Stock
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- half a lemon
- shaved Parmesan for serving
- To make meatballs, combine pork, Parmesan, panko, herbs, and sea salt in a large bowl, and mix well with hands. Form 18 - 20 1-inch meatballs.
- Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add lard or oil and then the meatballs. Sear on all sides, cooking until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. (Meatballs will also cook in the soup, so no need to cook through.)
- To make soup, heat lard, fat, or oil in a medium-sized soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and sea salt, and sauté until carrots are soft and onions are translucent, 7 - 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Fold in greens and fresh herbs, and sauté until limp and tender, about 7 minutes.
- Pour in stock, bring mixture to a boil, turn heat down to a bubbling simmer, and cook 10 minutes. Add seared meatballs and cook 10 minutes more. Towards the end of cook time, taste and add sea salt and pepper to taste.
- Ladle soup into bowl with 3 - 4 meatballs each. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of Parmesan shavings.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Progresso Foods.