You have to make it happen. – Denis Diderot
Some days it’s all I can do to survive, to get from daybreak to bedtime. I go through the motions, splitting myself into more than one person, cataloging the day’s activities and needs and lists and crossing things off one by one. Before I even dress, I’m up and cooking, asking the kids if they remembered their library books, reading spelling words off to one as I sign planners and help others with last-minute homework questions while I spoon warmed liquids into thermal containers and slice oranges so their citrus scent fills the air.
I kiss them goodbye, wish them well on their day, and then cram as much work as I possibly can into the next five hours before my time runs out and they return again. In the afternoon hours the clock seems to move at a much quicker rate than it does in the morning, when I’m clutching my cup of coffee and my perception of time is long and languid. Before I’m ready the light slips away, the kids rush through the door – a flurry of coats and backpacks and winter air, and I’m already late with dinner.
I took some time off in December. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been planned, plotted, and used as a break. Instead, I need to put a ball down in order to keep the others moving – the client variety, the family variety, the life variety. Thank you for noticing, for your kind words of concern, and for waiting for me to pick up the ball and start juggling it again.
Italian wedding soup has nothing to do with weddings. Minestra maritata translates to “married soup,” and it’s about the marrying of meat and greens, not getting hitched yourself. I’ll fully advocate pairing these two things together, especially in the midst of winter, grey skies and all. I need a bit of green in my everyday.
My minestra maritata is a bit on the simple side. I use only two kinds of meat in my meatballs, a bit of pancetta or bacon, and I am 100% okay just using the stock that I have tucked away in my freezer from chicken or beef or pork or whatever I happen to have on hand. My greens are completely of the “what’s going bad in the refrigerator” variety: a bit of kale, a bit of curly endive, and some spinach. I want this to be an everyday soup that feels a bit special, but doesn’t take much more time to get to the table.
Italian Wedding Soup: Minestra Maritata
- For the meatballs:
- 6 ounces ground pork
- 6 ounces ground beef
- ¼ cup plain bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese
- 1 tablespoon finely minced onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teapsoon grated black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons cream
- For the soup:
- 5 cups chopped greens (kale, spinach, escarole, curly endive, broccoli rabe)
- ½ cup cubed pancetta (can substitute bacon)
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced (minus the tablespoon you steal for the meatballs)
- ½ cup chopped fennel bulb
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small red chile, minced (seeds removed)
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 6 cups stock of your choice (a mixture of chicken and beef works well)
- 1 cup acini di pepe pasta
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino
- To make the meatballs, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or in the food processor, blend the ground pork. Stir in the ground beef, bread crumbs, grated Parmigiano, minced onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Whisk together the egg and cream, and then mix into the meat mixture.
- Using a small, 1-tablespoon scoop, form the meatballs. Place them on the baking sheet 1-inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, just until browned. The meatballs will finish cooking in the soup.
- While the meatballs cook, start the soup. Blanch the greens in a pot of boiling, salted water. Drain and squeeze out any excess water. Set aside.
- Lightly brown the pancetta in a large stock pot. Add in the onion and fennel and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes, until translucent. Add in the red chile and the bay leaf, stirring to incorporate. Stir in the white wine and then the drained greens.
- Add the stock and the meatballs and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the acini di pepe. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 9 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with additional Pamigiano-Reggiano for garnishing.