I know it might not seem auspicious to begin a newly minted food blog with a rave review for the restaurant chain, East Side Mario’s, but I won’t deny any lip-smacking food and I’m telling you right now that the Italian Wedding Soup that came free (free!) with my main course at East Side Mario’s last week was deee-lish. Replace the slightly overcooked Acini di Pepe (peppercorn shaped pasta) with something a little more al dente, then pop that bowl onto a white tablecloth (or reclaimed wood slab) and any fine-dining restaurant would be $12 richer faster than you can say “Budda boom, Budda bing”.
OK, so I realize that Italian wedding soup is an ‘American-Italian” creation. I did a little double checking to make sure–nope, couldn’t find it anywhere in The Silver Spoon cookbook (bible of authentic Italian cooking that it is) even though they do feature recipes such as “Farmhouse Rainbow Pie” (which I think suffered somewhat in the translation) and sounds like it should definitely be served at an East Side Mario’s somewhere out there–alongside Pot o’ Gold Penne. But to the point: essentially the soup is a broth with tiny meatballs, spinach and pasta. Wedding soup is actually an incorrect translation of minestra maritata (married soup) implying that the veg and meat go well together.
ANYWAY, though I enjoyed the restaurant version of the soup, I did feel that I could make it with slightly less salt and additives– and whatever else that made it taste so friggin’ good at the “Mario”– at home. So I did a little internet searching and combined two recipes. One is from Giada De Laurentiis, it’s pretty straight ahead, the meatballs were good and I liked the addition of the egg and parmesan at the end. The other tip I stole from Susan Sampson. In her recipe she cooks the meatballs and pasta each separately in boiling water before adding them to the broth so the broth doesn’t get cloudy. Which made a lot of sense to me before I started and as I watched the scum accumulate from my boiling meatballs while they cooked. The recipe makes a big batch, I made big meatballs, and we ate it all up in a couple of days.
The soup was so yummy that it occurred to me that instead of adding spinach to the hot broth, maybe the flavourful liquid could mask the taste of hideous kale. Kale is my frenemy. I love the smug feeling of good health and sound meal-planning I exude while kale is in my shopping cart, but don’ like its defiance once at home and the way it endlessly pops out of the crisper no matter how much I try to shove it to the bottom. I just don’t like the taste. I’ve tried to braise it and sauté it and I have yet to chop it up very tiny and put it into lasagna (which was my next plan of attack). Because it is SO HEALTHY, right?
So I gave it a go in the soup.
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship (or should I say marriage?). Thank you East Side Mario’s, you helped me kick kale’s ass. Or at least boil it.