There's no doubt about it, Ina is shaking things up in my kitchen. A few posts back I wrote about trying her recipe for scampi after making my own version for years and years. Since that experiment was so tastefully successful, I decided to try again with another of my "revered" recipes, this one for Italian wedding soup. While I don't mind standing and rolling tiny meatballs, I draw the line at frying them and generally poach them in the broth. Ina's version calls for pre-baking the meatballs. My meatballs are beef-based. Hers were supposed to be chicken-based, but there's got to be a little wiggle room in a recipe, right? I used turkey and turkey sausage. Ina replaces my standard escarole with baby spinach.
The results were every bit as delicious as my original recipe. In fact, Larry prefers her version because he loves sausage. I made a vat of this soup and served it with homemade focaccia (from Carol Field's book Focaccia). Nothing smells as wonderful as a pot of soup simmering on the stove and a loaf of bread baking in the oven. There were no leftovers to freeze, but I'm quite certain that if you kept the pasta separate, this soup would freeze beautifully. The recipe that follows is my interpretation of the Ina Garten's recipe, though very little is changed except some methods and the omission of dill, which I really don't find very Italian.
Italian Wedding Soup - Serves 6 to 8
FOR THE MEATBALLS
3/4 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb Italian turkey sausage, casings removed (I used hot)
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tbs fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbs milk
1 egg, beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE SOUP
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
3 carrots, 1/4 inch dice
2 stalks celery, 1/4 inch dice
10 cups chicken broth (I used ready-made low sodium)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup tubetini pasta
12 oz baby spinach, washed and trimmed
*place the ground turkey, turkey sausage, garlic, parsley, cheese, bread/milk mixture, egg, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper in a bowl and combine well
*shape mixture into approximately 40 meatballs, placing them on the parchment lined sheet
*bake for 30 minutes
*as the meatballs bake, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot
*add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery and saute for 5-6 minutes
*add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil
*add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook 6 - 8 minutes
*add the meatballs and simmer 2 minutes
*taste for salt and pepper
*stir in the fresh spinach and cook 1 minutemore, until the spinach is just wilted
*serve with extra grated cheeseBASIC FOCACCIA
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
3/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water ( 105 - 115 degrees F)
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 - 1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
TO MAKE THE SPONGE: Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large mixing bowl, whisk it in, and let stand about 10 minutes (until creamy). Stir in the flour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until very bubbly and doubled (about 45 minutes).
TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl, whisk it in, and let stand 5-10 minutes, until creamy. With a wooden spoon, stir the yeast mixture and olive oil into the sponge and mix well. Whisk in 1 cup of the flour, stir in the salt and remaining flour, and mix until the dough is well blended. Knead on a lightly floured surface until soft and velvety, 8 - 10 minutes.
FIRST RISE: Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise 1 1/4 hours, until doubled.
SHAPING AND SECOND RISE: The dough will be soft, delicate, and filled with air bubbles. Flatten it on an oiled 11 X 17-inch baking pan and press it out with oiled hands. The dough will be sticky and may not cover the bottom of the pan. Cover it with a towel and let it relax for 10 minutes, then stretch it again. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 mintues to an hour, until the dough is filled with air bubbles. Just before baking, dimple the vigorously with your knuckles, then drizzle olive oil over the dough , and sprinkle with the coarse sea salt.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a baking stone inside it. Place the focaccia pan directly on the stone and spray the walls and floor of the oven with cold water 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking. Bake about 20-25 minutes, until the crust is crisp and the top is golden. Remove to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Don't be afraid of yeast. Nothing is more calming than kneading dough. I love my food processor, but never use it to make bread.