Mom's Best One-Dish Suppers

Italian Wedding Soup

 Italian Wedding Soup

My cooking tends to the one-dish supper – it’s easy to fix and clean up, it satisfies, and it enables me to plan around a specific vegetable without too much fuss.  But in my writing

I haven’t been giving enough love to Mom’s Best One-Dish Suppers, a book I wrote in 2005.  Why not?  I think because this type of cooking is so deeply ingrained, I rarely refer to a recipe and rarely think to write about it.

 I wrote Mom's Best One-Dish Suppers in 2005

It’s soup weather now (as I write, we are deep in a blizzard), and I’ve been thinking about Italian Wedding Soup for a while. Greens and soup – particularly this combination of greens and meatballs in a clear broth – make a marriage made in heaven.  Hence, minestra maritata has been translated as Italian wedding soup, though it was not necessarily served at wedding celebrations in Italy, where this particular combination was developed. 

 Greens and meatballs in soup -- a marriage made in heaven.

I was at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op the other day and saw some gorgeous heads of escarole and knew it is time to make that family favorite.  Escarole is in the chicory family, along with curly endive (frisée), Belgian endive, and radicchio.  Much less bitter than other chicories, its taste is quite similar to radicchio.  You might also note it is less beautiful than radicchio and definitely less expensive to buy.

 A tempting head of escarole

Traditionally, the leafy chicories, such as curly endive and escarole, are grown under covers to deprive the heads of sunlight, resulting in a paler, less bitter head.  I think that custom is falling away, but I don’t mind; I like my greens bitter.


The escarole in this soup can be replaced with mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, chard, spinach, or cabbage, so feel free to substitute.  The meat can be the more traditional ground pork or half ground pork and half ground beef.

 Feeling lazy, I made the meatballs a little larger than usual.

Italian Wedding Soup


12 cups chicken broth (homemade is best)

1 pound ground turkey

2 eggs

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 to 1/2 cup pastina or orzo (small pasta shapes)

1 1/2 pounds greens, chopped


1.  Bring the chicken broth to a simmer.


2.  To make the meatballs, combine the ground turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, Parmesan, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a food processor.  Process until well mixed.  Alternatively, mix by hand in a large bowl.  Form the meat mixture into 1/2-inch meat balls (the size of marbles) and add to the simmering soup.  Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes. 


3.  Increase the heat slightly, add the pasta, and boil gently until the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes. 


4. Add the greens and continue to boil gently until the greens are tender, 3 to 10 more minutes, depending on the type of greens.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove from the heat, and serve.


Adapted from Mom’s Best One-Dish Suppers. @2005 Andrea Chesman.  All rights reserved.             

Chicken Soup for a Grey Day

November 15, 2011


November is the start of cold and flu season.  Since RR works in an elementary school, he brings home colds all the time.  Of course, the only cure for a cold is chicken soup. 


I always have a package of chicken leg quarters in the freezer for the purpose of making soup.  I throw it in the pot, not even bothering to defrost it first.  I can’t trim of the fat, but no matter, it will be skimmed off later.  Next I fill the pot with water, a couple of onions, a couple of garlic cloves, the tops of a bunch of celery, and a bunch of parsley.  The aromatics—the onion, garlic, celery—are standard flavoring items, but the parsley is important, too, I think.  It gives the soup a hint of fresh greenness.  In this I differ from my mother’s chicken soup.  She used parsnips and carrots to give a hint of sweetness.  And she never, ever used fresh garlic.  The daughter of immigrants, she avoided foods that were too “ethnic” in nature. 


The soup will simmer on the stove for 3 or 4 hours.  Then I’ll strain it, skim off the fat, and there will be the rich chicken stock I can use as a base for soup.  It can go in many different directions.  Mexican Tortilla Soup, Greek Avgolemono, Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken and Corn Soup, Risi e Bisi, Chinese Noodle Bowl with Bok Choy, with noodles and vegetables.  So many choices.   


But we are talking comfort here.  So matzoh ball soup it is.  Chicken soup with matzoh balls is an all-purpose cure—for a cold, the flu, a broken heart, or a grey day.


Here’s a recipe that I worked up for my book, Mom’s Best One-Dish Suppers.  I’ve never really liked the title, but it contains an element of truth: I am a mom and the recipes in the book are family favorites.  Here’s a bowl of comfort on a grey day.  Today I substituted diced celery and carrots for the greens listed below only because the soup was a sort of spur-of-the-moment decision, and I didn’t have greens on hand.


Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls

Serves 4 to 6

Matzoh balls are soup dumplings, made from matzoh meal. They are also called "“klose,”" "“kneidel,”" “"kleis,”" or “"kneidlach.”" Matzoh balls may seem exotic to those whose mothers never made them, but soup dumplings are so ubiquitous, historians can’t point to any specific cultural origins.


¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup water

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup matzoh meal

6 to 8 cups chicken broth

10 sprigs parsley

3 sprigs fresh dill (optional)

4 cups shredded greens (such as bok choy, chard, Chinese mustard greens, escarole, kale, spinach, alone or in any combination)

2 cups diced cooked chicken


1. Whisk together the oil, water, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the matzo meal. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to keep the water gently boiling.

3. Form the chilled matzoh meal batter into 1-inch balls and carefully ease into the water. Cover the pot and boil gently for 30 to 40 minutes. The balls will fluff up and float to the top of the pot as they cook. The only way to tell if the matzoh balls are cooked is to remove one from the water and cut it in half. It should be firm and uniform in color—no wet, dark center. When the matzoh balls are done, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.

4. Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a soup pot with the dill, if desired. Add the greens and chicken, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the greens are cooked through, 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the green.

5. To serve, place 1 or 2 matzoh balls in each bowl and add the soup.


From Mom's Best One-Dish Suppers.  ©2005 Andrea Chesman.  All rights reserved