Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Wedding Soup

 

Wedding_soup

Wedding soup“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons

I was thinking about wedding soup, having seen some Youngstown friends talking about making a huge batch for family gatherings at Christmas. That seems so right–such a warm and heartening and festive soup for a festive time! Easter also is a popular time, but really anytime is a good time for wedding soup as far as I’m concerned. When I worked at McKelvey’s the women in customer service regularly loved to go over to the Italian Restaurant for their wedding soup. I was a stock boy at the time, probably on more of a Jay’s budget!

It’s interesting that the name “wedding soup” doesn’t refer to its being served at weddings. In Italian, it is minestra maritata which literally means “married soup”, referring to the marriage of greens and meat in the soup.

That brings us to the basic ingredients of wedding soup: tiny meatballs and greens (escarole, endive and spinach being the most common, with some parsley mixed in for flavor) in a clear chicken broth or stock, seasoned to taste. Often hard-boiled eggs and parmesan cheese will be beaten and drizzled into the broth as it is stirred.  Some will add pasta or orzo, but in one place I read that no good Youngstowner would do this! Others add croutons, but I’ve never had it that way. I’ve also seen recipes with beans or lentils or shredded chicken (particularly where the broth or stock came from actually cooking a chicken!). I would probably say the simpler the better, with the secrets being the meatball recipe, fresh greens, good broth and seasonings.

I say this as a lover of good wedding soup, not a cook. I suspect there are those out there who want a recipe. I really don’t have one of my own but can point you to some that look pretty good (and would be glad for you to post yours if you think you can do better!).

DiRusso’s has a recipe for “Grandma’s wedding soup” on their recipes page. It starts with a whole fryer and includes pastina. There are a couple of wedding soup recipes in the first volume of Recipes of Youngstown (pages 29-30), and another one in volume two of Recipes of Youngstown (page 48). Then here is what looks to be a relatively easy recipe from the Food Network, complete with video. Each is a bit different, and I suspect that any of you who make your own wedding soup has a recipe that is different from any of these.

I hear there was a wedding soup competition in Akron this past summer and one on the South Side of Pittsburgh last February. Has this been done in Youngstown? I did learn that the Wick Park Neighborhood Association recently did a Wedding Soup in Wick Park fundraiser for improvements to the park — a great idea — with soup from Kravitz’s Deli.

Personally, I think it’s time for a wedding soup-off in Youngstown, if it hasn’t happened already! I suspect you could have both a restaurant competition and an individual one. For me, that would be heaven in a soup bowl!

I can see why wedding soup is such a quintessential Youngstown food. It is simple, sustaining, and invites that endless improvising that Youngstown cooks are so good at. And it is the perfect complement to a family gathering during those cold brisk days of winter.

 

 

13 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Wedding Soup

  1. My Mom commonly includes chicken and Orzo along with the little meat balls.
    Sometimes we use rice instead of Orzo.
    I like to add a dash of cayenne or hot paprika too.
    I’ve also gotten into the habit of adding greens to all kinds of soups and stews, even canned soup.

  2. I have the original recipe my grandmother makes. Using s stewing chicken for the broth & shredded chicken, crutons made of eggs, park cheese, parsley & salt, baked 20 minutes then cut into little cubes. Never pasta or beans ( that’s pasta fazu( sp) )! Get requests for my wedding soup every time I make it. One other thing, to make a clear broth, wait until the chicken water boils, then skim off the “crud” which is the blood coming off the chicken as it appears on the top. You only have a minute to do it so it doesn’t go back into the broth…makes a world of difference 🍵

    • My wedding soup is made just like your grandmother’s! The croutons are hand made as you described, but I put a touch of baking powder in mine. I too know the art of skimming lets you enjoy the best results! How about the Italian soup with the hunks of bread and stringy cheese? Does anyone know that Italian Wedding Soup?

  3. The traditional wedding soup in our family consisted of clear broth , meatballs, spinach, sponge bread croutons,and grated cheese.. I prefer to use escarole and endive in my own soup.. The soup that contains shredded chicken and pastina, is holiday soup.. And of course you have escarole soup that sometimes contains white beans.. ALL of them are special and comforting and oh so good… These traditions will live forever in our hearts ❤

  4. I make my grandmother’s wedding soup and I think it’s the best I’ve ever had, but I may be a touch biased. Never used Orzo or any type of pasta, rice or beans in it. The greens are usually endive and spinach, but sometimes just spinach and sometimes escarole. The croutons are bread cubes dipped in beaten eggs w/ Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper and pan-fried in olive oil. Also, eggs beaten with Parmesan cheese and drizzled into the soup, though my grandkids prefer it without.
    As far as wedding soup not referring to being served at a wedding; my grandmother told us it was used as the first course and at pretty much every Italian wedding I went to as a kid, it was. That was at a time when the grandmothers, aunts and cousins cooked the wedding reception meal. Maybe it’s a family thing for us or maybe a tradition where she was from.
    I love the idea of a Wedding Soup-Off! I’d travel back home to join in!

  5. I make my grandmother’s wedding soup and I think it’s the best I’ve ever had, but I may be a touch biased. Never used Orzo or any type of pasta, rice or beans in it. The greens are usually endive and spinach, but sometimes just spinach and sometimes escarole. The croutons are bread cubes dipped in beaten eggs w/ Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper and pan-fried in olive oil. Also, eggs beaten with Parmesan cheese and drizzled into the soup, though my grandkids prefer it without.
    As far as wedding soup not referring to being served at a wedding; my grandmother told us it was used as the first course and at pretty much every Italian wedding I went to as a kid, it was. That was at a time when the grandmothers, aunts and cousins cooked the wedding reception meal. Maybe it’s a family thing for us or maybe a tradition where she was from.
    I love the idea of a Wedding Soup-Off! I’d travel back home to join in!

  6. I was surprised to fins when I moved to California 20 years ago, that no one here knew what Wedding soup was. I made it for a restaurant once. It sold out in 2 hours. I make mine at Christmas time, like I did when I lived in Youngstown. I make it the way my italian grandmother taught me, always with chicken. The biggest challenge I face making it in California is finding chicken (I use only white meat) that isn’t skinned and boned, and finding the right greens to put in it. This year, in desperation, I tried dandelion greens. It worked quite well. I love introducing people to Wedding soup, especially those who have only tried the comercial soups made by Campbell’s and Pregresso, as those are not true Wedding soups.

  7. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Top Ten of 2016 | Bob on Books

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