One of the little stories I love to tell people about Italian Wedding Soup is that it has nothing to do with weddings. In fact, the Italian words for this soup — maritata — has been a disastrous faux-amis for we Americans who speak the kind of Italian you’ll find only at the supermarket: “spaghetti!” “penne!” “ricotta!” “Prosciutto!” “Ciao!”
Really, the phrase for Italian Wedding Soup — minestra, meaning “soup,” and maritata, meaning “married” — translates to “soup married” or “married soup.”
Native speakers of the language understand that this phrasing simply means that the ingredients “marry well together.”
Not that you should be married while eating this soup, a common mistake made by many food writers and romantics alike — which, can you really blame them? The Italians do love so very well.
Italian Wedding Soup, a close cousin to the Spanish Albondigas Soup where meatballs are cooked with rice within them, packs serious flavor given very little ingredients.
Since it falls into the larger tradition of Italian cookery, you can embrace the sweet basil from a pesto recipe, the carrots that never seem to get eaten and any small pasta you might have in the pantry.
Yet, just like with any soup, you can adjust the ingredients accordingly to what’s seasonal, affordable and available in your kitchen, so see my cook’s notes for how.
But, you know what else “marries” or goes well — sposa bene — with this soup? A sore throat, a rainy day, a hungry stomach or just an occasion to show someone you care.
What’s more tender than a bowl of soup for a loved one? Especially if they make the common mistake that Italian Wedding Soup has something to do with marriage.