Growing up in the Coal Region of Pennsylvania, many of the residents of my small town and surrounding areas immigrated from Isca sullo Ionio in the Calabria region of Italy. This is a popular soup of the coal region and many residents of the area make this soup. Other areas put spinach in their soup but not the Italians of Isca. Either way, with or without spinach, I hope you enjoy this hearty soup. As a little girl, I have a fond memory of my Italian grandfather making this soup. I remember sitting there and watching him with such intent. Later on as a teenager, and dating my now husband, who by the way is also 100% Italian, I can remember watching my in-laws making the “bubbles” and frying them. My mom makes this soup also and has taught me to “squash” the egg right into the soup as it makes a much better tasting broth. Get your spoons ready!
INGREDIENTS/INSTRUCTIONS: Dough Balls or “Bubbles” as we call them in the good ole Coal Region.
Combine 2 cups flour, 2 eggs. Add enough water to get the dough together. Sprinkle in a little flour so as not to stick. Cover dough, let stand 1 hour.
Put 48 oz Crisco oil in a deep pot. Get oil hot.
Take a piece of the dough and make a rope with it either by rolling between hands or stretching and swinging like a jump rope. Cut into bite size pieces and drop into pot. Be careful as these tend to “pop” and “fly”. Fry until lightly golden. They fry fast. Using a large slotted spoon, remove the “bubbles” and place in a bowl lined with paper towels to drain. You can also let them cool and freeze. You can also just throw them in the boiling soup raw. You can make these ahead of time and freeze. Put in boiling soup broth at the same time you put the meatballs in the broth. If frozen, cook/boil 10-12 minutes.
INGREDIENTS — Meatballs:
½ lb. ground beef
½ cup bread crumbs
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup grated Pecorino-Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley (or 2 tsp. dried parsley)
(Note, these meatballs look larger than they are!)
Mix all of the above and form into marble sized meatballs. You can fry in oil or throw in the broth raw. (It depends on how I am feeling at the time I am making this soup whether I want to fry them or not). Throw in boiling chicken soup broth approximately 25 minutes after chicken has been boiling. (These can also be done weeks in advance. Just place formed balls on a cookie sheet with wax paper, place in freezer. Once frozen, put into freezer bag and place back in the freezer for later use. Just throw in the boiling soup for 5-7 minutes.)
INGREDIENTS — Soup:
8 chicken thighs with bone (remove skin) (can also use legs but use more). Many people use white meat breast meat. I prefer the dark meat. It’s more juicier and the bones make a better broth.
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 Large celery stalks chopped
1 large onion diced 4 eggs, hard boiled
½ cup Acini di pepe
Add water ¾ of the way up in a large stock pot.
Add the chicken thighs, seasonings, onion and celery. Bring to a boil and boil approximately 25 minutes. Check if chicken is done. If so, remove the chicken to cool.
Add your meatballs to the soup and boil approximately 5-7 minutes if raw or frozen. 3-4 minutes if fried. Once cooled, take off the bone, breaking into bite sized pieces.
While soup is cooking, separately hard boil 4 eggs and set aside.
When soup is done, add your cooked, bite sized pieces of chicken, peel eggs and squash them in your hand over the broth into the pot.
Taste your broth. If it is weak, add more seasonings or add 2 cans chicken broth.
Cook Acini di pepe according to package directions. When soup is done, add them into the pot.
When you eat the soup, put in a few heaping tablespoons of freshly grated Pecorino Romano (See my page on grating your own).
Don’t put the cheese in the whole pot as it will spoil. Only add cheese to each bowl.