Saturday, September 17, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup

I am excited for fall (I know it is still summer and there is not exactly a chill in the air yet [there wasn't when I first started writing this, but yesterday it cooled down, yay!], but there will be soon, hopefully), for sweaters and pumpkin ale and pumpkin patches and down blankets and soup and hanging out with my five year old friends again, which means packing a lunch to bring to work everyday again and I am less excited about that.  I TRY to make lovely, healthy, delicious lunches to bring to work.  I really do.  But sometimes, especially when the days get shorter, I resort to cans of soup.  Generally the meat in soups freaks me out, it sort of looks like chicken but somehow it's off and there's weird fatty bits and it is not a good scene.  Which is where italian wedding soup comes into the picture, see I started eating it because of the meatballs.  They don't pretend to be anything they aren't, they don't pretend to be juicy unprocessed chunks of chicken and for that I am grateful, who doesn't value straightforwardness in their soup?  Anyways, the canned version is fine for when you are flying out the door in order to be on the playground before 8.  However,  making it from scratch is really not that difficult and vastly more delicious.  I found this recipe on Framed Cooks and I only tweaked one thing, she has you cook the meatballs right in the soup, which I would rather not do, not that they are exceptionally fatty and would make the soup too greasy, (I don't think, I have never actually boiled my meatballs in the soup) but I prefer to bake them and then add them to the broth.  Just a personal preference.

Start by mixing up the meatballs, whatever type of ground meat you prefer, breadcrumbs, egg, parmesan, garlic (just use a microplane and grate it in, much simpler than mincing) and nutmeg (don't leave out the nutmeg, it's important).  Keep in mind that you will be eating these with a spoon when you form the balls, keep them small. 

Bake at 350 until lovely and brown.

Meanwhile, dice your celery, onion and carrot.  I like to make these pretty small as I find large pieces of cooked carrot offensive, this way they all meld into the soup and flavor it but you hardly notice they are there.  Saute them in a big pot until soft.  Don't rush, this is your flavor base.

Once the veggies are done add the broth and water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Toss in the meatballs and the pasta.

When the pasta is done, toss the spinach in, as soon as it wilts your soup is ready.

Italian Wedding Soup, slightly adapted from Framed Cooks
1 pound ground meat, your preference
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/3 cup parmesan, grated
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cup ditalini or other small pasta
1 pound baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 350.
Mix the ground meat, egg, garlic, parmesan, breadcrumbs and nutmeg together.  Form into small, spoonable meatballs and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until brown and cooked through.
Meanwhile, saute the carrots, celery and onion in the olive oil in a large pot until soft but not not brown.
Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper, broth and water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Carefully add the meatballs and pasta, simmer until the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the spinach, when it is all wilted, which will take a minute or two the soup is done.