Happy belated autumn! Here in the Northeast, it’s actually starting to feel a lot like fall, with chillier, crisper days and we’re all starting to crave cold weather foods. In my book, that means it’s the return of SOUP SEASON!!! Yippee!! And guess what? Today we are…not making soup! How’s that for an anti-climatic moment?!! But not to worry, what we are making gets its inspiration from one of everyone’s favorite soups. Behold: Italian Wedding Soup Pasta! Exciting, no? Let’s get this Monday jumpstarted!!
I love Italian Wedding Soup though strangely I don’t have an actual recipe for the classic version on the site, though if you love it too, you should definitely give this Stracciatella Soup with Mini-Meatballs and this Italian Chicken Soup with Parmesan Dumplings a try, cause both fall into the Wedding Soup camp and are sure to warm your soup-lovin’ heart. In this pasta version, you still get the meatballs, the cheese and the escarole but instead of broth holding things together, you get tender rigatoni! It’s absolutely delish and easy enough to make on weeknights!
You start by mixing together ground chicken (instead of the traditional beef, keeping things a little lighter) with panko, Pecorino Romano, garlic, egg, parsley and salt and forming little mini-meatballs that get baked for about 30 minutes.
And while that’s happening, you can prepare the pasta and cook the escarole so that it gets nice and wilted. Then when the meatballs are ready, you just toss them into the skillet, along with some of the pasta water and Pecorino, and voila! You’ve got yourself a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup Pasta. Just remember to serve it with a fork!
Italian Wedding Soup Pasta
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
For the meatballs
3/4 pound ground white meat chicken
2 tablespoons panko
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large egg, whisked
1 handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Pasta & Sauce
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 pound small rigatoni or other small pasta like ziti
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-2 shakes red pepper flakes
1 large head escarole, cut into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving
1. To make the meatballs: Preheat oven to 425º F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
2. Place all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and wet your hands, wringing them out a bit. Mix everything together well and then form ½ round little meatballs and place them on the prepared sheet in rows. You should get about 3 dozen.
3. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning them halfway through the process so that they get golden on all sides. Remove from the oven and loosen them from the foil if they’ve stuck a bit.
4. Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package directions. Drain and reserve at least 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water.
5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute, until the garlic is a pale golden color. Watch carefully cause it can go from golden to burned in a blink! Add the escarole and toss it to help it wilt, adding ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water in the process. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
6. Turn the heat up a bit and add the cooked pasta and meatballs to the pan, tossing well to combine everything. Add another ¼ cup of pasta water to loosen things up—you can add more to make the sauce looser if you like. Stir in the Pecorino and let things heat for a bit. Serve with additional cheese for sprinkling on top. If you let this sit for a while before serving, it might get a bit dried out and you might want to add a little more of the pasta water when you reheat it.
Note: Recipe adapted from Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry. I tinkered with some proportions.