This version of “chicken noodle soup” is both comforting and filled with lots of veggies. Not to mention, it’s super easy to make. A staple in my home, it can easily become a family favorite of yours too!
My sister recently asked me for a healthy variation which used spinach, and this soup came to mind. Quite honestly I feel like I only see spinach used in a few ways, with pasta (she’s trying to opt of carbs), salads (too typical) and in butter-laden side dishes (too caloric). To me, soup combined flavor, an entree, and overall less calories consumed due to the broth you’re consuming- awi. While this recipe is more about comfort than it is about a stylish dish, one could easily serve it up with parmesan crisps served over top with fresh sprigs of dill to help elevate it a notch. I personally like it just as is (see below).
Italian wedding soup is usually found within the United States in Italian-American settings. While the mis-translation of wedding soup in Italian means minestra maritata, it refers to what many believe a married soup where meat and green vegetables go well together (true). Most often you’ll find the meat consisting of sausage or meatballs and a leafy green vegetable such as kale or spinach within the soup. Sometimes it will also include small pasta and other veggies which compliment the meat and greens well.
My recipe includes sausage balls aka pieces of sausage which have been removed from their casings and cooked up before adding to the soup. While meatballs provide their own heartiness to this dish, I wanted to further infuse the soup with more flavoring which is why I love some sort of chicken and spinach sausage to enhance those flavors we’re already using. By cooking the sausage in this way, you can render out some of the fat which helps lessen calories once it’s added to the soup. Not to mention I loved using a chicken sausage which typically goes unnoticed otherwise.
From there I add in veggies such as celery, carrots, onions, leeks, and/or green onions. While you don’t need all of these veggies, the addition of some, or all of them helps to fill you up without adding a ton of extra calories (not to mention flavor too). Use what you have in your fridge or what you bought from the market, chances are you will find a use for stuff you have simply lying around. For some, the addition of pasta is a personal preference. I just like the textural element it brings to the soup and I found that you really don’t need a whole lot to help balance everything out. My go to pasta in this dish is usually a gluten-free orzo, but you could use an Israeli couscous or alphabet letters also. The broth chosen is also a personal preference. While I prefer to make my own chicken broth, or use a low/no sodium version, it’s really up to you on what’s best for you and the company you’ll be serving. For meatballs or a beef based sausage, beef broth probably would work better. You could even combine it with partial amounts of beef broth and chicken broth. And don’t forget the humble vegetable broth- you have options!
One tip I love to share regarding soups is the use of cheese rinds. Sounds weird, but it’s an amazing trick. The basis is saving those impossibly hard to cut (and eat) rinds of hard cheeses such as Parmesan or Pecorino Romano and adding them into soups and stocks for an additional flavor profile. You cook them with the broth and remove before serving. It’s not only a good flavoring technique, but it also helps minimize waste in your kitchen. Many good grocery stores (such as Wegmans) have rinds for sale of their hard cheeses. For a lot of home cooks, the saving of their hard rinds in the freezer for instances such as this is what we live for (total food dorks). I urge everyone to start saving them up and add them to your next batch of soup or sauce!
And that’s it! An easily weeknight meal that’s a bit new and exciting with all the comforts of a good soup. From my kitchen to yours!
Italian Wedding Soup
4 Chicken Sausage links (preferably chicken and spinach)
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Carrots (about three medium sized), diced
3/4 cup of Celery (about two medium stalks), diced
10 cups of Chicken Broth
Cheese Rinds (optional)
1 cup of Orzo, or other similar small pasta
6 cups of Spinach (or one 160z package), washed and drained
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons of Dill, chopped
Salt and Pepper
On a cutting board, make a slit with a sharp knife lengthwise down the surface of each Sausage link to help perforate and open up the skins. Using your fingers, scrape the bulk of the Sausage stuffing from the casings and discard the casings. Set aside the stuffings.
In a large pot on medium heat, add your Olive Oil. One shimmering, grab a handful of Sausage stuffing and using your finger break off small pieces and add it to your hot pan. Repeat until all sausage is in the pan. Brown and fully cook the Sausage, five-ten minutes. Remove Sausage from pan with a slotted spoon and set onto a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside.
Add into the same pot your Garlic, Onions, Carrot and Celery. Stir and coat with oil and allow to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
Add in your Broth and Cheese Rinds, and bring to a boil. Add in your Orzo and cook according to package directions, usually about 8-10 minutes. Once Orzo is cooked, remove pot from heat. Remove Cheese Rinds. Add in your Spinach and stir till fully immersed. Add in your Red Pepper Flakes, Dill and Salt and Pepper. Stir and add in more spices as desired.
Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan Cheese.