Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Perfect Marriage

So I got a little “flack” from a longtime friend about choosing a microwave popcorn recipe as my first “Mangia, Figlia” recipe. Besides being a super-easy and great-tasting recipe that I wanted to share with my readers, I also meant it to be lighthearted. And several of you who tried it said you appreciated that I shared it. So my mission was accomplished, right? Well, not quite.

To prove I do mean business in the kitchen, I’m going to share something a little more involved ― a recipe I make frequently and am asked to share often: Italian Wedding Soup.

I can’t quite remember the first time I ate Italian Wedding Soup. I don’t ever remember eating it at either grandmother’s house or at any of my aunts’ houses. I don’t remember it fondly from my childhood dinner table, and I know I didn’t eat any when we traveled to Italy in 1977. (There I ate tortellini in chicken broth for 16 days straight. I was 12 ― that’s the only explanation I can offer for that.) So even though I can’t remember the precise moment this culinary gem entered my life, it did indeed enter at some point, and boy is my son glad it did!

Sure, there are dozens of recipes for Italian Wedding Soup ― just do a Google search and see for yourself. What little I’ve been able to uncover pertaining to the origin of my recipe, however, is that it appears to have originated in the south of Italy. Which of course makes sense ― we are from Calabria, so at some point, the recipe must have been passed down.

In Italian, the dish is called Minestra Maritata“minestra” meaning “soup” and “maritata” meaning “married.” It gets its name not because it is served at Italian weddings (like many Americans think), but because the soup is the marriage of its ingredients. Let me explain.

To achieve the proper layers of flavor and the right soup consistency, you must follow each step of the cooking process with purpose. For instance, the recipe calls for Acine de Pepe pasta, which is boiled separately from the soup, then added later on. This step is important, because if you boil the pasta in the soup, the starch from the pasta will thicken it ... and that will alter your end product (in my opinion, in a very bad way).

In fact, the process here is to prepare each and every ingredient separately, then “marry” them all at the end ― Minestra Maritata. (“Ah-ha! Now it is making sense,” you say!)

And while we’re talking technique, let’s talk about another important ingredient ― the meatballs. They are to be made small ... exceptionally small ... I mean, Barbie small. Here’s a little hint: when you are forming them, just when you think they are small enough, split them in half again ... and then one more time. The recipe says ¼ teaspoon per meatball ― that’s about right.

I would credit my mom for this recipe, but I must tell you: after a recent batch I shared with her, she asked for my recipe. Since she taught me the technique and I somehow, unknowingly, mastered it, I henceforth credit this to both of us, proving that sometimes it takes generations to achieve perfection. Perfetto.

Mom's and My
Italian Wedding Soup


Tess Wittler said...

Love this post and the Barbie doll analogy! I can't wait to try this recipe out. Perfecto!

CraigS said...

Perfect timing. I made two batches of chicken broth over the weekend. I considered making Wedding Soup but never had a good recipe. Now I do.

Beth said...

I've had Maria's soup, and can tell you it's delicious! Thanks for sharing, Maria!

Amy said...

Sounds delicious--think I'll try it this weekend while we're snowed in :)

missy said...

This looks so much better than Campbell's!!! But I don't know if I can pull it off. Can I substitute white chocolate popcorn for the meatloaf mix?