Saturday, December 5, 2009

Meatball Soup

This soup is full of veggies, beans, pasta and little meatballs. This is a hearty soup and needs only a few accompaniments - good bread, maybe a salad, and a nice red wine. It's perfect autumn fare!

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
¼ chopped parsley
2-3 tablespoons grated onion (you can also use dehydrated minced onion, but only use 1 tablespoon)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Roll the mixture into 1-inch meatballs and set aside.

For the soup:

½ cup small pasta (e.g. thimble, ditalini, small shells, etc.)
2 cups cooked white beans (I used frozen)
2 carrots, washed, peeled and sliced into rounds
2 small zucchini, diced
1 onion, diced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen green beans
2 banana peppers, cored and sliced into rings
1 red pepper, cored and chunked
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp fresh basil, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 pints stock or ½ water, ½ stock
Salt and pepper

Optional: 3 Italian sausages, sprinkle of chili flake
If using the sausages, brown along with the meatballs. Slice before adding to the soup.
(I would add the sausages if I could find them, but they aren’t available here. Most pork products are not readily available here.)

In a soup pot, add 2 tablespoons oil. Lightly seal and brown the meatballs so they don’t lose their shape when cooking. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Lower the heat and add the chopped onion and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes until slightly tender, then add garlic. Cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add the zucchini and carrots and allow them to cook for a couple more minutes.

Combine the rest of the ingredients (except for the pasta) and bring to a near boil. Skim off any foam from the meatballs. Reduce heat and allow soup to simmer until meatballs are cooked and veggies are tender. You may need to add some additional liquid during the cooking time. Keep warm water or stock handy. Don’t use cold as it will reduce the temperature of the soup.

While the soup is cooking, bring salted water to a boil in another pot. Cook the pasta until just al dente. Keeping the pasta separate will keep it from getting mushy. To serve, put some pasta in the soup bowl and ladle over the soup. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes: The ingredients are really flexible. If you're super short on time, use all frozen vegetables. You can buy frozen onions and peppers together as well as frozen Italian vegetable mixes. I'm using frozen barbunya again like I did in the chili recipe because the canned beans can be too mushy. You could even use frozen meatballs but I think they're rather disgusting and prefer to make my own. I can't get a lot of frozen products here, anyway.

Use chicken or beef broth or stock in this recipe. Feel free to leave out the tomato paste if you want a less "tomato-y" soup. Use dried herbs or fresh, but remember to use about half the amount of dried.

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