Crafty wordplay aside (Get it? Wedding/Bliss?), you might be wondering if a meatball could really be blissful? Darn good, maybe – but blissful? Hardcore carnivores might not agree, but I think these lean turkey meatballs – laced with parmesan cheese, deliciously caramelized outside and spoon-tender inside – are about as good as a meatball can get. They’re the newest addition to our family’s “Favorites” list – whether added to this healthy meal-in-one soup, served with spaghetti and tomato sauce, or eaten straight from the pan.
Not to be a wise guy, but I learned recently that Italian wedding soup has nothing to do with Italian weddings. Somewhere along the line, the blissful union of meat + greens in minestra mariata (“married soup”) was mistranslated as “wedding soup”. There are countless variations of Italian wedding soup (Campbell’s even makes one), but it’s usually chicken broth-based with meatballs, greens and parmesan cheese. Some recipes call for thickening the soup with a cheese-egg mixture swirled in at the end. I prefer adding a small amount of acini di pepe pasta – little pasta bits that swell to peppercorn size when cooked. They thicken the soup a little, but also retain their shape (making this soup a good candidate for leftovers). Adding the rind from a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a great way to be thrifty and chef-y in one fell swoop; the rind flavors the broth like an all-natural bouillon cube, and some of the cheese melts into and thickens the soup. (Store your rinds in the freezer so you’ll always have one on hand.)
Buon appetito !
Blissful Turkey Meatballs
Makes about 32 meatballs
- 1 lb ground turkey breast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ cup grated or minced yellow onion (about 1 small)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or parmesan cheese
- ½ cup panko (or other dry bread crumbs)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (for browning)
In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients except olive oil. Shape into walnut-sized balls (about 1”). (Dip hands in water to prevent sticking.)
Heat a large Dutch oven (or skillet if not making soup) over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Brown the meatballs in 2 or 3 batches, turning once or twice so that at least two sides are golden brown (about 3-5 minutes). If adding meatballs to soup or sauce, they do not need to be cooked all the way through. If making meatballs to eat straight from the pan, continue cooking until no longer pink inside (or transfer to a baking sheet and cook in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes longer).
Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 6, with leftovers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 10 cups (80 oz.) chicken broth
- 1 recipe Turkey Meatballs (above)
- 1 large bunch escarole or kale, chopped into 1” -2” pieces (thick stems discarded)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Parmigiano Reggiano rind (optional)
- 1/3 cup acini di pepe pasta
- ½ cup ground parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano
- Kosher salt to taste
Using the same Dutch oven used to brown the turkey meatballs, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the diced onions. (If you prefer a totally clear broth and enjoy doing extra dishes, start with a clean pot.)
Cook about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add meatballs, greens, black pepper and parmigiano rind (if using). Cover and reduce heat; simmer for about 5 minutes.
Stir in acini di pepe.
Partially cover pot and simmer for at least 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until pasta and greens are tender. (Some greens will take longer to cook than others.)
Stir in ½ cup parmesan or freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Check for seasoning, adding kosher salt if necessary. (You’ll most likely need to add a little salt if you used low-sodium chicken broth and/or did not add the cheese rind.) Soup can be made up to 2 or 3 days ahead.