Italian Meatball Soup with Pasta and Parmesan

Winter arrived two days ago…blech.    We were spoiled by a long string of sunny and relatively warm days in December.  It came to an abrupt halt with bitter winds and a dusting of snow.  Below zero wind chills.  Not a fan.

Fortunately as a lifelong Chicagoin, I’ve got a winter survival arsenal that includes:

A) One industrial strength parka

B) Heated seat warmers

C) A cord of wood under the carport

D) Plenty of red wine, and

E) A stack of good soup recipes

And this one definitely tops the list!  One of those soups that has something for everyone: lots of vegetables, little savory meatballs and pasta.  It does take a bit of prep work, but hey, it’s worth getting out the chef knife once and a while and practicing those chopping skills!  For those pressed with time, just throw everything into the food processor.  Or better yet, purchase a pre-chopped mirepoix mix at your nearby Trader Joes.  And if you’re really super pressed for time, go ahead and throw in some frozen meatballs and let them simmer away.  Your secret is safe with me 😉

While we’re on the subject of the meatballs, the original recipe calls for adding raisins.  This may seem a bit odd to some, but it’s actually a Sicilian touch with roots in the long ago Arab occupation of the island.  In  fact, scholars now believe that it was the Arabs who invented pasta and brought it to Italy.  Anyway, as much as I wanted to be true to the original recipe, I knew the family members were not going to go for raisins in their meatballs.  So in the interest of pleasing the young ones, I left them out.

Eat, drink and be merry people.  Only 77 more days until the official start of Spring!

Italian Meatball Soup with Pasta and Parmesan

1/2 pound lean ground beef or turkey

5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons raisins (optional)

2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

1 egg, beaten

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 1/2 quarts canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 cup small pasta shells or other small macaroni

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, the Parmesan, raisins, bread crumbs, egg, half of the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper until thoroughly combined. Shape the mixture into 1” meatballs (makes anywhere from 20-24 meatballs).
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the carrots, onion, celery, and the remaining garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, rosemary, and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon parsley, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the pasta to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the meatballs and simmer gently until the meatballs and pasta are done, about 5 minutes longer. Serve with additional Parmesan.
Serves 4-6

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