A son lovingly recreates his mom's soup recipe.

After Chuck's mom died unexpectedly at 63, he recreated her soup recipe in her memory: "When my mom died fairly young, one thing I was upset about was that I didn't take the time to learn to make many of these dishes. Luckily, my Aunt Marie, my dad's sister, was more than happy to teach me the Falzone versions of them all. But some that were more Tarara dishes, like this soup, I had to kind of recreate it myself from a lesson in chicken soup from Aunt Marie, my mom's meatball recipe, and what I remembered about it."


SOUP WITH LITTLE MEATBALLS

For the Broth

  • Olive oil
  • 1 chicken, 4-5 pounds, cut up, liver removed (or 4-5 pounds of chicken pieces)
  • 1 veal soup bone
  • Salt
  • 1 large onion, quartered after removing the root end
  • 2 or 3 stalks of celery, including leaves, quartered
  • 2 or 3 carrots, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Parsley stems, a good handful
  • An entire head of garlic, cut in half through the equator (if dirty roots are attached, remove and clean well)
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • About a dozen black peppercorns

 

Optional/nontraditional broth ingredients:

  • 4-5-inch piece of rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 or 3 salted anchovies or a couple squirts of fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon porcini mushroom powder or 1 dried porcini mushroom
  • White wine, a splash

 

For the Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground veal
  • Unseasoned breadcrumbs, a few handfuls
  • Pecorino romano cheese, grated, a handful
  • ½ of a small onion, chopped fine
  • Fresh parsley leaves, a good handful, chopped fine
  • 1 egg
  • Milk, a splash
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • A little garlic powder if you want

 

Additional Ingredients

 

Instructions

In the morning, place a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil, the chicken, the veal bone, and a three-finger pinch of salt. Once whatever meat that is on the bottom has browned for 5 minutes or so, add 4 quarts of water and turn the heat to high. While the water is heating, clean and prep the vegetables and other remaining broth ingredients. Add them to the pot as they are ready. When the water reaches a full boil, reduce heat and keep at barely a simmer for the rest of the day, stirring occasionally.

Sometime after lunch, start on the meatballs. Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. There should appear to be at least half as much breadcrumbs as meat, about a third as much cheese as breadcrumbs, and about half as much parsley as cheese. Mix ingredients by hand until well combined. Form the mixture into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. Set aside in the refrigerator until needed.

In the mid to late afternoon, once the broth appears to have reduced by about a quarter, remove the meat and vegetables and pass the broth through a fine-mesh strainer. Try to recover as much liquid from the meat and vegetables as possible and strain that liquid as well. If you lived through the Great Depression, save the limp meat and vegetables to serve as a meal. Rinse any debris from the stockpot, return the broth to the pot, bring back to a simmer over high heat, then cover and turn heat to low.

30-45 minutes before serving, add the meatballs to the broth. Adjust the heat to bring the soup back to barely a simmer, then keep it there.

15-20 minutes before serving, remove 2 or 3 cups of broth (no meatballs) to a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil, add noodles, and stir for 30 seconds or so. Reduce heat and let simmer per noodle directions. When the noodles are cooked, add them and the broth to the soup. Taste the broth and add salt if needed.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Let each person garnish with grated pecorino romano to taste.