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.