Let’s talk meatballs.
Remember when I said I love meatballs so much?
Remember how I said I love them because they are versatile, and easy, and quick, and delicious? They are just little spheroid explosions of flavor!
So the other night, for giggles and grins, I made Spaghetti and Meatball Soup.
The thing is, I was craving a good Italian meatball but I wanted to put a fun and different twist on the usual spaghetti and meatballs.
You must start with a good meatball.
And let me just state this now officially for the record: you cannot get a good meatball out of a plastic bag that you pick up in the freezer section.
It can’t be done.
But the good news is making a good meatball is easy-peasy and fun!
This here is my favorite go-to Italian meatball recipe. This is also the Italian meatball I make for spaghetti and meatballs, or for meatball subs.
Start with ground meat.
Take your pick! You can make them with beef. You can make them with pork. You can make them with turkey or chicken or I suppose even with ground tofu but I’ve never actually tried it that way… (see what I mean? Versatility to the max!)
I like to make mine with a mixture of ground beef and ground pork, but the little local grocery store in my parent’s neighborhood didn’t have any ground pork so I had to use their homemade hot Italian sausage instead.
I know. Life’s rough here.
I used about a pound of each. I was plannin’ on makin’ lotsa of meatballs!
Oh my. Look at all that flavor!
Next add basil. Lots of basil. Tons of basil! You really can’t overdo the basil!
Mince up at least one of those .75 oz packages of basil you can find at the grocery store and toss that in there. Or, you can use at least twice as much as I did…which would be two of those little .75 oz packages of basil you find at the grocery store. Or use gobs of fresh basil from your garden, should you be lucky enough to have fresh basil growing in your garden!
Don’t fear the basil.
Next add in breadcrumbs, a couple of beaten eggs, and plenty of salt and pepper.
I used whole wheat panko breadcrumbs. Why? Because that’s what I had on hand!
Then mix it all up and realize you forgot to add the cheese.
Add the cheese.
Parmesan cheese. Lots of it.
Don’t fear the cheese.
Here’s the breakdown then: I use about 1 cup of bread crumbs, 1 egg, and ½ cup of cheese (or more) per pound of meat. This will give you a light and tender meatball with plenty of meaty texture, and tons of good, cheesy flavor!
Mix it all up gently but thoroughly with your hands. I mix everything until it’s just barely combined. This keeps the meatball tender and delicious…the more you work the meat mixture the tougher and denser your meatballs will be.
Now roll it up into meatballs!
How big you make your meatballs is entirely up to you, and probably will depend on your intended use. For spaghetti I like to make big, fat, juicy, decadent meatballs. Like, meatballs the size of your fist.
But for soup I made itty-bitty bite-sized meatballs. Cute meatballs. Mini meatballs. Lilliputian meatballs…
I’ll stop now. The point is they were small.
Like ¾ of an inch.
Like gumball sized.
But not the big, fat gumballs you can’t fit into your mouth.
And not the tiny, petite meatballs you have to eat ten of to get a mouthful.
(Ever notice how fast gumballs lose their flavor? Sooo not worth 25 cents!)
No, really. Back to meatballs.
They were gumball sized meatballs. I made like a million of them. Or anyways, I made however many you see in the photo below. Make meatballs until all the meatball mixture is used up.
Place them in a baking sheet (no need to grease it, but be sure to use one with sides because a lot of juice and grease will come out of the meatballs and generally make an enormous mess of your oven if you don’t.) and roast them at 400º for 15 or 20 minutes, or until they get crispy, browned, and delicious.
Set these aside, and don’t eat them all yet.
Now’s an ok time to start cooking up some pasta too.
Since it’s Spaghetti and Meatball Soup you might think I would have used broken spaghetti noodles, and certainly those would be tasty, but I like these little cylindrical noodles.
They remind me of Perler Beads. Remember those? The little cylindrical beads you could put in patterns on a pegboard then melt together with an iron? Then you’d have all these little plastic patterned bits that have no conceivable use.
We turned a lot of them into magnets.
Anyways, don’t cook the pasta until it’s done. Pull it out when it’s about 3 minutes shy of al dente.
Set it aside. And don’t eat it all yet.
And don’t eat a big dish of it slathered in butter and parmesan and pretend it’s lunch at 10:30 of the a.m.
Or do. I’m in no position to judge!
Now for the soup!
Heat a large stock pot over medium heat, then pour in some olive oil. Toss in some onion (I used the other ¾ of the onion I used for the meatballs. It was a very big onion.) a diced green pepper, lotsa garlic, and a couple of diced carrots.
Stir it all up and let it sweat for a few minutes.
This is the point at which I would have added about a cup of red wine, if I’d had any red wine on hand.
I did not.
So I did not.
Add any, that is.
Dump in a can of tomato sauce and two cans of diced tomatoes.
Actually, let’s talk about canned tomatoes for a second. I like using whole tomatoes and crushing them up with my hands. I say this is because the texture comes out much more rustic and appealing than using diced or crushed canned tomatoes.
But really it’s because I like to play with my food.
In this case, however, all I had on hand was diced canned tomatoes. In fact, one of those cans of tomatoes was actually a can of diced tomatoes with chiles. And they were just divine.
Pour in a box of beef stock .
Now it’s time for some herbage.
No, not that kind of herbage!
I used plain old pre-mixed dried Italian herbs. About a teaspoon.
Then dump in your meatballs and let it all simmer for a bit. At this point, you can let it simmer for hours or you can add in the remaining ingredients finish it up within about 20 minutes.
I let it simmer for hours.
Because it was, like, 10:30 in the a.m. and I had, like, just eaten a big dish of pasta with butter and parmesan.
There’s just no excuse for me.
Let them simmer and soften for about 15 mintues then add in a couple of cups of spinach…
…big, fat, green handfuls!
And the precooked pasta.
Stir it all up and let it heat through.
If you played your cards right the spinach will be wilted and delicious, the meatballs will be tender and savory, and the pasta will be perfect and not at all mushy or over cooked.
Serve it forth with generous sprinklings of parmesan and good, crusty bread!
Here are your step by step instructions:
SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALL SOUP
For the meatballs
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground pork or Italian sausage
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ large white onion (or one small onion) finely minced
1 c. basil leaves, minced
2 c. bread crumbs
1 to 1 ½ c. grated parmesan cheese
Mix all the ingredients lightly and form into balls. Roast in a preheated, 400 degree oven for
15-20 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.
For the soup:
¾ white onion, diced (use the remainder of the onion from
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 c. red wine (optional)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
32 oz. beef stock
1 tsp. Italian herb mix
2 small yellow summer squash, diced
2 c. spinach leaves
2 c. cooked pasta
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Pour in olive oil, add onion, garlic, pepper and carrots and sauté until translucent (about 5 minutes).
Add in the red wine, if using, and simmer until reduced by half.
Pour in tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef stock, Italian herbs, and meatballs. Simmer until heated through. Skim off any excess grease. Stir in squash and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until soft. Add spinach and pasta. Heat through. Serve with parmesan sprinkled on top and good, crusty bread on the side.
Eat and be happy!
Back to The Blog, The Project, and Life in General:
So, you’ve probably already figured this out, but I’m gonna have to postpone The Great Cupcake Extravaganza to a later date.
Like I said, I bet you’ve already figured this out.
What with this whole moving fiasco and being homeless (i.e. bumming around in my parents’ basement) and whatnot, I just haven’t had time to figure out a recipe or organize anything. Let alone find a place to host the thing!
So, long story short, The Great Cupcake Extravaganza has been postponed to a later date which will be announced once I get organized enough to figure out what it is.
We’ve (likely) found a place to live, by the way, and should not be homeless for much longer!
I say “likely” because I’ve learned not to assume anything until the lease is signed and all the furniture is moved in.
I also need to discuss the next Food for The Project with y’all.
I’ve fallen woefully behind and must stay on schedule from here on out!
I’ve got lots of seafood left. Let’s ponder a moment…
On September 30th I will need to conquer yet another food challenge. I think we should make it a seafood challenge! Should it be crab? Should it be scallops? Should it be ocean fish? Cast your votes below. An invitation will be issued soon!