There's no denying it, when it's cold, most of us want soup. Wrap your hands around a hot mug of soup and it will warm you inside and out.

And if you're feeling poorly there's some truth to that old adage that chicken soup is "Jewish penicillin." Scientists have discovered that there are health benefits, which include clearing of congested nasal passages by inhaling the steam from a hot bowl of soup. And even those who don't believe that, have agreed, that the love that comes along with the offer of homemade soup is also good for what ails you.

Either way, soup, and perhaps chicken soup, is the ultimate comfort food.

This recipe for Italian Wedding Soup is from my mother, who was an excellent cook, both at home and professionally. I grew up eating this soup, and now that she's gone, I treasure having the recipe so that we can enjoy it and think of her.

For this recipe, since we couldn't find whole or cut up frying chickens, we just used a few pounds of chicken pieces, mainly thighs and breasts. It didn't affect the quality of the soup at all and may even have amounted in more chicken meat. We used about a tablespoon of soup base, which just gave the broth a bit of a richer taste. Overall, it was as good as I remember my mother making it, and for me, that's the most comforting.

Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, Italian Wedding Soup isn't a soup traditionally served at Italian weddings. The name comes from the marriage of the flavors that are contained within this delicious concoction.

Enjoy!

For more Comfort & Joy recipes, go to tnonline.com/lifestyle/comfort-and-joy.

Italian Wedding Soup

About 8 servings

2 frying chickens, cut up

Water

6 stalks celery, chopped

5 carrots, chopped

1 very large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon salt

2 packages frozen spinach, defrosted

1 cup orzo or pastina

Chicken soup base, if needed

Meatballs, see recipe that follows

Put chicken into a pot and fill the pot with water to 2 inches above the chicken. Remove the chicken and bring the water to a boil. Once the water boils, return the chicken to the pot. Start skimming constantly until all the foam is gone. Let cook until the chicken is falling off the bone, about a half-hour or more.

Strain chicken and put aside until cool enough to handle.

Add celery, carrots, onions and salt to taste. Pull chicken from the bone and cut into small, bite-sized pieces. Return chicken to the pot along with the meatballs and spinach. Add soup base if necessary.

Cook orzo separately, according to package directions, and spoon into bowls when serving.

Meatballs

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 egg

Mix the above ingredients until well blended. Note: If you need more liquid, use water, starting with about one-quarter cup. Do not use milk and do not add more than 1 egg per pound of ground beef. Do not overmix, or it will toughen the meatballs.

Roll into small balls, about an inch or less. Bake in a 375 degree oven until brown and firm, about 20 minutes.