This recipe actually doesn’t have anything to do with a bride and groom. Despite the folklore about it being served at weddings to give the bride and groom energy for the evening, it was actually a peasant soup made with the meat and leafy greens that were available. When the dish came to America and became reinterpreted, the meatballs and other vegetables got added. This dish is one of my favorites and one that is most requested by my friends and family. I love to serve it with crusty homemade bread and butter. If you wish to freeze the leftovers, it freezes well.

Italian Wedding Soup… my way …

Posted by Chef John O'Neil on Sunday, April 5, 2020

Meatballs – Ingredients

1 ½ cups good bread (Italian, French, brioche), cut into 1/2” cubes

1 cup whole milk

1 pound Italian sausage

1 pound lean ground beef

½ cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese

½ small red onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, crushed finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh marjoram (sweeter, more mild flavor) or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano (strong, a little goes a long way), finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 egg yolk

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Soak bread cubes in milk for 15 minutes. Combine all ingredients except cooking oil in mixing bowl and mix until just combined. If you don’t have a mixer that can mix this, you can combine with your hands, kneading the mixture until combined. Don’t overmix or the meatballs will be tough. Small meatballs are preferred for this recipe. Use a #60 scoop to form meatballs. In a deep pot, heat oil to 325 degrees (measured with a candy thermometer). Place about 10-12 meatballs at a time in the oil. Fry until the meatballs are golden brown. Scoop them out away from you so you don’t splash yourself with hot oil. The meatballs will finish cooking in the soup, so what you are looking for is the color and crunch on the meatballs. The larger the meatball, the longer it will have to cook.

Use 40-50 meatballs in the soup recipe. If you have extra, you can make them and freeze them for use in another dish later.

Soup – Ingredients

½ cup bread crumbs

½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 large carrots, small diced

3 ribs celery, small diced

2 medium onions, small diced

1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, thick sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

4 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 can 28-ounce crushed fire roasted tomatoes

2 tablespoons beef demi-glace

2 quarts beef bone broth

3 quarts beef stock

1 inch square parmesan rind

3 tablespoons salt

2 cups dry pearl couscous

40-50 meatballs (recipe above)

1 large or 2 small zucchini, small diced

1 medium yellow squash, small diced

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and cheese and set aside for garnish.

Heat 8-quart dutch oven or soup pot and add oil. Add carrots, celery, and onions, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Then add garlic, chopped herbs, and black pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly with heat on medium high. Add tomatoes, demi-glace and cook for 5 minutes until reduced by half. Add bone broth, stock, and parmesan rind. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Add half the salt. Continue cooking for 5 minutes. Taste the broth. You want it a little salty to taste so the broth will flavor the couscous, so you may want to add the remainder of the salt. Add meatballs and vegetables and cook for 5 more minutes. Add salt if it needs it at this point. As it cooks, the fat will rise to the top. Use paper towels to lightly skim the fat off the top of the soup. Serve in bowl and lightly sprinkle bread crumb and cheese mixture over the top.

Brands I use in this recipe:

Texana Brands Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Herbs from my home garden

Dried herbs ordered in bulk from Mount Hope Foods

Muir Glen canned tomatoes

More Than Gourmet demi-glace

Bare Bones Bone Broth

Rice Select Pearl CousCous

Kitchen Aid mixer

Le Creuset goose pot

Henkel knives

Fifth & Cherry cutting board

Pork belly pastrami with mustard cream sauce over cole slaw.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 – National Pastrami Day. Pastrami comes from Romania, usually made of beef brisket. The dish was brought to America by Jewish immigrants in the second half of the 19th century. The preparation method was originally created as a way to preserve meat before the modern convenience of refrigeration came about.

To make pastrami, the meat is brined to make corned beef. Corned beef is literally a beef brisket soaked in brine. Then the brine is washed off and the meat patted dry. Once dry, the meat is seasoned with a heavy dose of herbs and spices, especially black pepper, then smoked and steamed. Smoking the corned beef makes pastrami.

Beef brisket pastrami

While beef brisket is the most common and old-school meat to use to make pastrami, a newer hipper meat to use is pork belly. In fact, it is very common to see almost any meat made using pastrami method – goose, duck, turkey, pork shoulder. Vegetarians make pastrami out of beets! Pretty much anything goes here since pastrami is a method and spice mixture. Here I’m going to talk about making pastrami with beef brisket.

Pork belly pastrami

Trim the brisket.

I like to use a select quality of brisket because there’s less intramuscular fat on it. You can use choice if that is what you can find. I would not use prime because there’s too much fat on it.

Out of a whole brisket, separate the flat part from the point part into two sections. Trim away as much visible fat as possible.

Prepare the brine.

In a large stockpot, combine 2/3 cup kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons curing salt (Instacure #1 known as Prague power or saltpeter), ½ cup pickling spice, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds, 1 cinnamon stick broken into large pieces, ¼ cup coarse grind black pepper (the granuales should be large than the kosher salt flakes), ¼ cup coriander seeds into 2 quarts of water. Bring the spices water to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Cover and set aside for 2 hours or until room temperature. Add 3 cups of ice to the pot to chill down the brine. Add the trimmed brisket to the pot. Cover tightly and refrigerate for two days.

I like to make this in the winter time, using an ice chest that stays cold. If you keep it out of the sun, the brining brisket in the ice chest left outside will still stay below 40 degrees without any additional refrigeration.

Preparing the brine for the beef and pork belly.

Prepare the smoker.

Prepare your smoker on low 200-225 degrees. I use lump charcoal with a mix of apple wood and hickory wood on top. While the smoker is coming up to temperature we will get the brisket ready to go on.

Make the pastrami rub.

To make the pastrami rub, we will start with the pastrami base. Then we will add a few different ingredients depending on whether you are using beef, turkey, or whatever meat.

Add to a blender in this order: 3 cups whole coriander seeds, ¼ cup granulated garlic, ½ cup dried Mexican oregano (Mexican oregano is sweeter than Italian or Greek oregano), 1 cup ground black pepper. Pulse lightly 305 times until the coriander seeds are broken. You don’t want a dust or power, just a course combination of the spices that resembles the texture of kosher salt.

If you are making beef, take 1 ¼ cup of the base spice mix, then add 2 tablespoons hot, smoked paprika, 2 cups medium grind black pepper. Mix well and use this as the dry rub for beef.

Preparing to season the brined pork belly.

If you are making pork, take 1 cup of base mix, then add 3 tablespoons granulated garlic and 2 cups medium grind black pepper. Mix well and use this as the dry rub for pork.

For turkey or any fowl bird pastrami, add 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning to the pork pastrami rub recipe above.

Wash and rub the meat.

Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse well, discarding the brine.

Pulling the pork and the beef from the brine.

Rub all sides with pastrami seasoning rub. This should be a heavy layer of rub. The way I do it is rub the entire meat with one layer of the spice rub. Lay the meat down and spray the top side with vegetable spray, then add another layer of the spice rub. In other words, the top gets two layers of spice rub.

Beef rubbed with pastrami spice rub.

Smoke and steam the brisket.

Put the brisket on the smoker and smoke at 200-225 degrees for 3 hours.

The TK Cooker drum smoker getting ready for the beef to go on.

Remove brisket from smoker and transfer to a metal roasting pan. Add about 2 cups of water. Wrap the whole pan with aluminum foil very tightly. Bake in 300-degree oven 3 ½ hours. Remove the pan from the oven. Leave it wrapped and let it rest for at least 2 hours, allowing the steam and spice to penetrate the meat as it cools. When you unwrap the pan, you can slice it and eat it right away. Or, you can put it in the refrigerator and eat it over 5-7 days. You can also freeze it and it will keep for about 3 months.

Beef brisket pastrami sandwich

Add some cole slaw and mustard to a toasted bun, with or without melted cheese for a yummy beef brisket pastrami sandwich.

Or, make a mustard cream sauce to pour over pork belly pastrami and cole slaw for a quick and pretty dinner.

This salad was developed by one of the best chefs in the world Chef Bernie Kantak in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’ve put my own twist on it, but kept the same spirit. Mixing the salad at the table sets the perfect scene.


1/4 cup basil pesto

1/2 shallot, roughly chopped

1/2 cup aioli (see note)

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Best Salad Ever
Best Salad Ever


1/3 cup cooked Israeli couscous

2 ounces chopped arugula

1/3 cup diced roma tomatoes

1 teaspoon fresh chopped basil

Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup diced smoked salmon

1 tablespoon crumbled Asiago or Feta cheese

1 tablespoon toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

2 tablespoons dried black currants

For the dressing:  Combine pesto, shallot and aioli in a food processor; blend thoroughly. With motor running, add buttermilk. Add pepper and lemon juice; blend to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: Aioli is like garlicky mayonnaise. Look for it in gourmet food stores, or make your own by blending together 1 to 2 finely minced garlic cloves, 1/3 cup olive oil and  1/4 cup mayonnaise.

For the salad:  Combine the cheese, pepitas, and currants together to make trail mix and set aside. Combine tomatoes, basil, and balsamic vinegar and set aside. Start arranging ingredients in separate rows on a large platter or bowl. Begin with salmon, following by a row of arugula, then couscous, trail mix, sweet corn, and last a row of the tomatoes. Toss salad at the table, using about half of the batch of dressing. (Refrigerate remaining dressing up to three days.)