(Zuppa di Scarola)
This soup is delicious and it brings back a very funny and great memory for me every time I think about it. I couldn’t find Marie’s recipe for Italian Wedding Soup, and I remembered some but not all of the ingredients and amounts, so I decided to copy one from Giada de Laurentis of the Food Network® and modify it just a bit to recreate the wonderful soup Marie made for many of us back in the 1980’s. I just made it and it is fabulous!
The funny and great memory that I associate with this soup begins after lunch of the day I first tasted it as a first course at dinner with Marie’s family and friends at a great Wilmington, DE restaurant named for the owner, Vincente’s. Marie and I had been dating for about a month and we were in my office after lunch. We kissed and I told her that I loved her. Her reply? "I love you too, Ray, but I won’t just live with you. If we are going to be together then we will be married." My reply? "I understand."
So, here we are at dinner that evening, nothing else having been said about matrimony, and there I am eating my first bowl ever of Italian Wedding Soup. As I raised the spoon to my mouth and began sipping the broth Marie leaned over to me and whispered in my ear … "Is it alright if I tell some of the people here that we are getting married?" I damn near choked on my soup … and my brain went into overdrive, for I had to reply in an acceptable manner or risk real trouble. You see, I had not proposed to Marie … I had simply said, "I understand." She took my statement to mean that I had just agreed to marriage, i.e., that I had just proposed to her.
Well, I had to temporize to pull my thoughts together, so I said, "Let’s wait for a few days before we say anything." She agreed, but with some disappointment, for she was excited. Whew! You might say I was kind of excited too, but for a different reason! In any event, I loved Marie and I would have proposed anytime, anywhere to her, but that event really caught me by surprise. How appropriate for me to be eating Italian Wedding Soup!
In later years I would tease Marie now and then telling her that she proposed to me … and she would smile and rub her eye with the fickle finger of fate as her reply! What a hoot!
To make the meatballs:
Stir the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl to blend.
Stir in the cheese, beef and pork, the black pepper and the red pepper flakes.
Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each meatball, shape the meat mixture into meatballs. Place them on a sheet of plastic wrap.
Saute´ the meatballs in the olive oil on low to medium heat in a large non-stick surface skillet, turning to brown them on all sides, then set the meatballs aside.
To make the soup:
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
Add the Acini de Pepe and stir.
Add the meatballs and the escarole, then stir and simmer until the escarole is tender, about 8 minutes.
Add the pre-cooked chicken breast pieces. Note: You must pre-cook the chicken breast or it will cause a scum to form on the soup.
Add the lemon juice and stir the soup.
Whisk the eggs and the Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup slowly in a circular motion.
Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently.
Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.
Finish seasoning the soup with Parmesan cheese if desired.