Playing Wintertime Italian Wedding Soup

Fortifying store-bought stock with a rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is a great way to intensify the flavor.

Ingredients
For the Parmigiano-Reggiano Fortified Stock:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large head garlic, halved and cloves left in their skins
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lemon, sliced into 4 slices
  • A few stems of parsley, thyme and a large bay leaf
  • A few white or black peppercorns
  • 1 quart chicken stock plus 3 cups water
  • 1 large chunk of rind from a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
For the Meatballs and Soup:
  • For the Meatballs and Soup:
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 1 egg
  • About 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino and/or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses
  • A fat drizzle of EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 5 to 6 cups chopped, stemmed escarole, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 pound maltagliati (torn egg pasta, Buon Italia brand preferred) or broken egg lasagna sheets or other wide egg pasta
  • Juice of 1 small lemon, to serve
Preparation

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat, a turn of the pan. Brown garlic, onion and lemon slices to caramelize surfaces then add herbs, peppercorns, stock, water and, most importantly, the large piece of rind. Simmer 20 minutes then cool and strain. 
 
Combine breadcrumbs and cream, and let stand for a few minutes. Fluff moist breadcrumbs with fingertips and add to ground pork in mixing bowl. Add salt, white pepper, egg, nutmeg, garlic, grated cheeses, EVOO and combine well. 

 
Bring fortified stock to a low boil, add 3/4-inch rolled meatball/dumplings to the stock as you roll them. Simmer 3-4 minutes then add pasta and cook 3-4 minutes more. Wilt greens into soup, add lemon juice and serve in shallow bowls.