Italian Wedding Soup + No-Knead Ciabatta

Italian wedding soup and ciabatta bread

It’s finally feeling like fall to me down here in Cincinnati. We had our first real frost this week and the scarves and sweaters and UGGs are starting to come out of the woodwork. I’m a little nervous about winter because I live in a drafty old house, but the radiators kicked on this week and I’ve discovered that pointing a fan at mine really does wonders for heating up the room. I’m comforted by that and the thought that the city only gets a couple of inches of snow at a time–huzzah!

But, as we’re moving towards cooler weather my culinary adventures are started to tend toward winter-y foods. Like bread. And soup. Both of which you can see in the above picture. This was my second time making Italian wedding soup, and my very first time making ciabatta!

If you have ever felt intimidated by breadmaking, let me suggest this no-knead recipe from Lifehack.  It sounds almost too good to be true, but it works and you get tasty, tasty bread out of it. I made a mistake with mine and added 1 tsp of yeast instead of 1/4 tsp so it was ready to bake in about two hours instead of eight. The resulting bread doesn’t have the big airy pockets like you usually see in ciabatta, but it was extremely easy and still very delicious. Especially hot out of the oven with some butter… mmmmmm.

But of course, the bread was just one side of the equation. Soup was the other. I’ve been thinking about this Italian wedding soup for a while, and I finally gathered all of the ingredients. Contrary to popular belief, the soup has nothing to do with weddings; the name supposedly refers to the “marriage” of meat and vegetables. And I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that it isn’t from Italy either. Oh well. Meatballs and pasta = close enough?

Here is the recipe that I use. It makes A TON of soup, so I’d suggest making a half batch like I did this week.

Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 10

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (Bob Evans is good!)
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced (I’m not a huge fan of cooked carrots so I never use this much)
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cans beef broth (I go reduced-sodium here too)
  • 1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced basil or 2 tbsp dry
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked pasta (like macaroni or penne)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine eggs and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Crumble beef and sausage over mixture and combine. Form into 3/4″ meatballs.
  2. Place meatballs on a foil-lined cookie sheet (with sides) and bake for 15-18 minutes until no longer pink. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Meanwhile, saute carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup kettle until tender. Add broth, spinach, basil, soup mix, ketchup, thyme, and bay leaves.
  4. Bring the soup to a boil and add the meatballs. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the pasta and cook for 13-15 minutes longer, until tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaves before serving.

And there you have it! The perfect autumn / winter meal: bread and soup.

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