Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Italian meatball soup

We're barely a few days into fall, and I've already embraced one of my favorite cool weather traditions: soup Sundays.

(Actually, I brought it back over 3 weeks ago with a batch of my favorite chili because I couldn't wait any longer.  Try to act surprised.)

I love lazy Sunday afternoons.  Open windows inviting a crisp breeze into the apartment.  TV alternating between football and the movie du jour on Comedy Central while folding laundry.  Oh, and did I mention the sweatpants?  Lurve the sweatpants.

It's all enough to make you want to push the "Pause" button and linger in those moments for the next week.  Especially when everything is perfumed by the most fantastic aromas coming from something simmering over the kitchen stove.  Cozy, thy definition is quite simply "autumn."

But occasionally Sundays afternoons are filled with less enviable activities.  Like sitting in the car for 4 hours driving across the state, back to Pittsburgh, on the most uneventful route known to man.  Once home, we barely have enough time to squeeze in a late dinner, unpack, and fall into bed.

Raise your hand if you wish teleportation were a real thing.

It's after a Sunday of travel that I find myself really longing for more laidback Sunday activities... on a Monday.  I want to come home from work, slip into aforementioned sweats, and enjoy the intoxicating smells of soup.  Oh, but because it's a weeknight, dinner's gotta be ready in under 40 minutes but still have that fabulous slow-cooked flavor.  Is that too much to ask?

Nope, not when you can make this super easy Italian meatball soup!

It's what I like to call a chop-and-drop meal.  Prep ingredients by chopping ahead of time and simply add them when ready with minimal extra effort.

This is my favorite chop-and-drop recipe to date!  It's loaded with just about everything but the kitchen sink (and dessert, natch): a rainbow of produce from orange carrots to green cabbage and bright red tomatoes,  hearty stick-to-your-ribs beef meatballs, and short-cut orzo pasta that plumps up during cooking and absorbs the flavors of everything in with it.

Comforting, healthy, and satisfying in a perfect one pot meal.  Double all of that if you go back for seconds.  Ahem.  What more could you ask for?

Maybe some cupcakes.  A real "Pause" button to soak up every minute of autumn.  And some new sweatpants to make life even more comfortable.

One year ago: Sausage kale breakfast strata
Three years ago: Pepperoni stromboli

Italian Meatball Soup
-makes 6-8 servings

A few notes:  I used meatballs that I'd previous made using the recipe below and frozen for later use.  I simply added them, frozen, to the soup during cooking.  Easy peasy!

1 1/2 pounds cooked meatballs (using this recipe or pre-made)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cups chopped white onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped carrots
Ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low sodium beef broth
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 pound green cabbage, chopped
1/3 cup orzo or other small-shaped pasta
Grated parmesan cheese, optional, for serving
Crusty bread, for serving

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium-low heat.  Add onions, carrots, and celery, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Cook until tender, roughly 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring.  Add beef broth, 2 cups of water, tomato paste, diced tomatoes with juice, and meatballs.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.  Add pasta and cabbage, stirring to combine, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Top with cheese, if using, and serving with crusty bread.  Buon appetito!

Leftovers keep for up to 5 days covered and refrigerated.

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