On Saturday my cousin Katie got married in my parents’ yard. I wasn’t able to get the time off of work to make the trip to the West coast, so I watched via FaceTime. Thank God for technology, which lets us be in places other than our physical location!
Since I couldn’t be there in person, I made Italian Wedding Soup as a special tribute to my beloved cousin Katie and her new husband Louie.
Katie is part of some of my best memories.
Throughout our childhood, she would visit for one week every summer. We spent our time doing silly carefree things like sewing pillows, decorating t-shirts, and inventing plays. Our finest was Bellerella, inspired by Beauty & the Beast and Cinderella.
As we grew up, we bonded over our shared love of all things Italian. In fact, she took her first plane ride ever from San Francisco to Rome, Italy to visit me while I was studying abroad in 2005. (Brave girl for getting on a plane for 12+ hours for her very first time! That’s how much she wanted to get to Italy!).
Katie’s greatest gift is making people laugh. I’ll never forget when we were in a tiny compartment on an Italian train – just me, my brother, Katie, and a random Italian dude – and Katie was singing, “Volare, cantare…” at the top of her lungs. The Italian guy didn’t know what to say, but he couldn’t help grinning.
Katie and I both love Tim McGraw and we’ve been to a couple of his concerts over the years. I remember that when Tim performed “She’s my kind of rain,” Katie called a certain gentleman named Louie so that he could listen to that song. Ten years later, Katie and Louie have found each other once again. When love is meant to be, there is no obstacle like time or distance that it can’t overcome.
Congratulations to Katie & Louie! May you be blessed in your marriage, and love each other more and more every day. I’m sure your days will be filled with lots of love, smiles, and laughter!
Recipe for Italian Wedding Soup
I’ve seen recipes for Italian Wedding Soup floating around for years, but I have never made nor tasted it before. I knew without a bite that it would be delicious: a soup of meatballs and spinach in broth. What’s not to love?
I found many, many versions of this soup while searching for a recipe online. What they all have in common is broth, meatballs, and greens. Variations may include or omit egg, tiny pasta, or additional vegetables like celery, carrot and onion.
One thing I’ve learned from watching MasterChef is taste, taste, taste as you cook to adjust seasonings as necessary. Although I don’t cook with it enough, sage is one of my favorite herbs (I guess I like it so much that I accidentally bought two jars of ground sage!). After I tasted the broth it needed some depth, so I added about 1/8 tsp of sage (not that I was measuring, so don’t take my word on that!). It’s one of those herbs that’s really powerful. The amount needs to be just right, otherwise it tastes off if there’s too much. The sage-meatball combination is what makes this soup special for me.
Another alteration I made is chopping the spinach by rolling several leaves together and then slicing them horizontally into approximately 1/4 inch ribbons. In my opinion, there is nothing more unappetizing than soggy, slimy chunks of cooked spinach. I added my spinach at the very end so that it was slightly wilted how I like it. I think I might even add a heartier green next time, such as chard or kale.
I got curious about the origins of Italian Wedding Soup. Is this dish native to Italy, or is “Italian” a ruse? I’m not an expert in Italian food by any means, but after living there I do have a sense of what is native to Italy versus what is Italian-American. Things like chicken in pasta and fettucine al fredo are nowhere to be found in Italy, but are touted as “Italian” food all over America.
Though I scoured the web, I could find little information about the origins of this soup. The scholar in me resists referencing Wikipedia, but it was the best, if only, source I could find (I was always told Wikipedia is not a valid source in grad school, but I beg to differ). It appears that the name of this soup is a mistranslation from the Italian minestra maritata, literally “married soup.” This name suggestions the idea of matrimony, but it in fact refers to the ingredients of meat and greens being “married” or paired together well.
Whatever the original meaning, I think it’s a nice Italian-American tradition to adopt this soup as a recipe for wedding celebration. Next month another cousin is getting married, so I’ll try another version of this soup in honor of her wedding.