Truly just like Nonna used to make! Homemade broth enriched with healthful greens, tiny meatballs, and pasta, Italian Wedding Soup is the best kind of comfort food. Get a head start by making the broth in advance.
2carrots,peeled, trimmed, and cut into 2- to 3-inch segments
2ribs celery,trimmed and cut into 2- to 3-inch segments
½teaspoonwhole black peppercorns
1teaspoonFine sea salt,or to taste
For the meatballs and soup:
¾cuptorn pieces of fresh sturdy bread,crusts removed
1small egg,lightly beaten
¼cupfreshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese,plus more for serving the soup
1small clove garlic,minced
2teaspoonsfinely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½teaspoonfine sea salt
5ouncesraw chopped escaroleor baby spinach leaves; about 5-6 cups
1 ¼cupsbroken capellini,thin spaghetti or other small soup pasta
Make the chicken broth: Put the chicken in a large stock pot and cover with 4 quarts cold water. Into each of the onion quarters insert 1 clove and add them to the pot. Add the carrots, celery, parsley, thyme, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to medium-low, then skim any foam that forms on the surface. Simmer gently, uncovered, for about 3 hours, adding salt to taste during the last hour of cooking. The broth is ready when it is reduced by about ⅓ to ½ and has developed a rich flavor.
Strain the broth: Strain the broth through a colander lined with cheesecloth into a clean lidded container. Reserve some pieces of chicken, carrots, and celery for the soup and discard the bones and the rest of the solids.
Refrigerate the broth: Refrigerate the broth and reserved meat and vegetables. When the broth is completely chilled, skim off and discard the congealed layer of fat on the surface of the broth before reheating. This step is optional but recommended.
Make the meatballs: Line a large baking sheet or platter with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine the torn bread and milk and let sit for about 15 minutes, or until the bread has absorbed the liquid. Gently squeeze out the excess milk and return the bread to the bowl. Add the beef, pork, egg, cheese, garlic, parsley, and salt. Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
Shape the meatballs: Dampen your hands with cold water, pinch off small pieces of the mixture (1 to 2 teaspoons) and roll them into balls about the size of a marble, setting them on the prepared baking sheet or platter as you go. You should end up with 60 to 100 meatballs, depending on how small you roll them.
Make the soup: Bring 8 cups defatted broth to a boil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Carefully drop in the meatballs and stir gently. Add the greens and simmer everything for about 10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through, and the greens have wilted. Add the reserved chicken and vegetables from the broth, if using. Stir in the pasta and let the soup boil gently until the pasta is al dente; the cooking time will vary depending on which pasta you use and the brand.
Serve: Ladle the hot soup into shallow bowls and sprinkle each serving with about 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Make the broth in advance: You can make, strain, and refrigerate the broth 1 to 3 days in advance. Or freeze it in containers with tight-fitting lids. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before making the soup.
Make the meatballs in advance: You can make the meatball mixture and roll it into balls a day in advance and refrigerate them, covered, on a baking sheet or platter. Or, you can freeze them on the baking sheet.
Leftovers and storage: Store leftovers in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, transfer to a pot and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add a splash or two of broth or water to loosen the soup, if necessary. Once boiling, remove from the heat and serve.