Not long ago I made up a batch of homemade Italian Sausage. I have to admit, my favorite way of eating Italian sausages is to grill them until about half way done, finish them in a thick tomato sauce bursting with onions and peppers and then stuff them into a chewy sub roll and eat the whole thing accompanied by a root beer. But that is something that most people do anyway so I wanted to come up with something a little different. I remembered coming across a recipe for Portuguese Sausage and Kale Soup, not long ago and with “Italian” food on my mind thought a mash up between Portuguese Sausage and Kale Soup and Italian Wedding Soup would work perfectly. Since one of the main ingredients in Italian Wedding Soup is greens (usually spinach or escarole) I figured changing it over to kale wouldn’t be a big deal. And since Italian Wedding Soup also contains meatballs, usually beef or a mix of beef and pork, I figured I could make the meatballs out of sausage. Sure Portuguese Sausage and Kale Soup is usually made with Linguica or Chorizo, but I figured I could take a little artistic license.
Kale is an often underutilized green in this country. I’m as guilty as everyone else, but making this soup reminded me of how good kale can be, and the best part is that it is quite a bit cheaper than fresh spinach or many other fresh greens.
For most dishes that I make, that include meat, I usually brown the meat. It provides color and added flavor to the dish, but this time I decided to forgo that set. First off, in most Italian Wedding Soups that I have seen, the meatballs have been pale. Secondly, I like the light simplicity of this soup as is, and think that browning the meatballs would just muddle up the flavors a bit. Of course, if you prefer to brown the meatballs then go ahead. The soup will still turn out great, though different.
Other than making up the meatballs, this soup is pretty simple to make and pays off with a lot of flavor. While great eaten the day it is made, like most soups this one is even better the next day or the next. Luckily it makes enough that you are guaranteed leftovers, unless you are feeding an army.
Italian Meatball & Kale Soup
1 pound Italian sausage (either hot or sweet)
1 large egg
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
12 cups chicken stock
1 pound kale, stems & thick center vein removed and chopped
2 pounds, waxy potatoes peeled and diced 1/4-1/2″ (I used Yukon Golds)
Parmesan cheese, grated
For the meatballs: combine all the ingredients and mix well. Form into small meatballs, about the size of marbles, and set aside. You should end up with about 60 meatballs.
For the soup: in a large stock pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, without browning until onions become translucent. Add the stock and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the kale and cook for 10 minutes then add the diced potatoes.
Cook 5 minutes longer then gently add in the raw meatballs. Cover and cook for 20 minutes more, or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through. Season with salt and pepper. Ladel into bowls and top with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese
**Note: If you grate your own Parmesan and have some rind left, go ahead and toss into the soup while cooking. it will impart some of it's flavor into the soup. Cut it into 2 inch chunks and just remove rind before serving.