Italian Wedding Soup

With a twist. The sausage meatballs!

I read about it on the editor of Bon Appetit’s Instagram page.

It is uncomplicated and oh so delicious. Better the next day, too!

Quoting Bon Appetit:

“This recipe takes all the right shortcuts and none of the wrong ones. We doctor up sweet Italian sausage for the meatballs, opt for adding canned beans instead of boiling pasta in a separate pot, and still manage to make an uber-flavorful soup without having to call for boxed chicken stock. It’s one-pot, one-bowl magic.”

Ingredients

1lb. sweet Italian sausage

¾cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided

6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

8 garlic cloves, dividedKosher salt

1 medium head of fennel with fronds

2 medium onions

½tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup dry white wine

14-oz. piece Parmesan with rind

1 15-oz. can cannellini (white kidney) beans

1 small head of escarole

Directions

  1. Cut shallow slits in each sausage link, then remove sausage from casings; transfer sausage to a medium bowl. Add ½ cup panko, 2 Tbsp. oil, and 2 Tbsp. water. Peel and finely grate 1 garlic clove on a microplane into bowl. Season lightly with salt and mix with your hands until breadcrumbs are evenly distributed.

2. Portion meat into small meatballs about 1″ in diameter (oil your hands to help with rolling if mixture gets sticky) and transfer to a plate. (Note: I made marble-sized meatballs.)

3. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add meatballs, spacing evenly apart, and cook undisturbed until first side is dark brown, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn meatballs and cook until other side is also well browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer back to plate and set aside.

4. Remove pot from heat and prep the rest of the soup ingredients: First, remove fennel fronds from 1 head of fennel and save for garnishing the soup. Cut fennel head in half lengthwise. Cut a V-shaped notch in each half to remove the core. Place halves cut side down, then thinly slice crosswise.

5. Peel and trim 2 onions. Cut in half lengthwise and coarsely chop.

6. Smash 6 garlic cloves (keep remaining clove for the end) and peel.

7. Place Dutch oven back over medium heat and add fennel, onion, and smashed garlic; season with salt and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden brown and softened, 6–8 minutes.

8. Stir in ½ cup wine and scrape bottom to dissolve any remaining stuck-on browned bits.

9. Add 8 cups water (Note: I used homemade chicken stock.) ; season generously with salt. Slice down along Parmesan rind to remove and add to soup; set cheese aside.

10 .Bring to a simmer, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered until broth is golden and flavorful, 25–30 minutes. Season with more salt if needed.

11. Open 15-oz. can beans and pour into a strainer or small colander. Rinse beans and shake to remove excess water, then transfer to pot along with meatballs. Bring back to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until broth is slightly thickened from beans and meatballs are cooked and have released some of their flavor into the broth, 10–15 minutes.

12. While soup is simmering, separate leaves from 1 head of escarole and rinse to remove any dirt. Tear into small pieces, then stir into soup in batches to wilt. Remove soup from heat.

13. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over medium. Finely grate remaining 1 garlic clove into skillet. Add remaining ¼ cup panko. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until panko is golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

14. Prepare your other garnishes: Finely grate about ½ cup cheese from reserved hunk of Parmesan (you might not need it all). Finely chop fennel fronds.

15. Taste soup and season with salt if needed. Ladle soup into bowls and top with chopped fronds, grated cheese, and toasted panko.

Here I am about to add the escarole.

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