I’m here to tell you about a soup I made the other night that was a huge hit in this house. I needed a way to use up some of the meatballs I made, so I put this soup together. It was fabulous, if I do say so myself, and I encourage you to try it. :)
But first, I have to tell you about the meatballs. Lately I haven’t really enjoyed my meatball recipe. It’s not really mine anyway, it was my mother in laws. And really, it wasn’t hers either, but rather her mother in law’s. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, otherwise we wouldn’t have eaten them for years, but I never really liked how tough they seemed. For them to be tender at all they had to simmer in the sauce for hours on end, and sometimes you just want to EAT, not simmer! :-p
So I was on a quest to find a better meatball. I had bookmarked a couple different ones but decided to try the one over at Noble Pig. It looked rather appetizing, but that wasn’t what caught my eye. The eye opener for me was this:
“…and mix thoroughly with a fork. Using a fork prevents overmixing and compacting which can toughen meatballs.”
That was my “ah ha” moment. So that’s why my meatballs were always tough! At that point, I could have just made my recipe again, using a fork instead of rolling and squishing the meat, but instead I decided to try Cathy’s. Cathy also said:
“The best way to shape meatballs is with a portioning scoop that has a retractable blade that releases the meat.”
Again, I had been using my hands to mix up all the ingredients and then tightly rolling the meat into meatballs. Who knew??
Now fair warning here, Cathy’s recipe makes a LOT of meatballs. I could tell by the ingredient list that I would like them so I went ahead and made the full recipe. I like having meatballs in the freezer, so making this many was not uncommon for me.
The verdict. I thought these meatballs were fantastic. However, my family had trouble with them. They thought they were too heavy on the herbs. I will admit there was a pretty strong oregano flavor, but come on people! They were wonderful! Ugh. So, now that I had almost 100 meatballs in my freezer, I needed to try something else other than spaghetti sauce to see if I could get them to eat them.
As a side note here, I gave a bag of the meatballs to my neighbor who has 6 kids. They loved them, only 2 of her kids turned their noses up. My family just has bland taste buds. BAH! If you would like to try them, I’ll give you the recipe below. The only real change I made was using some ground pork in addition to the ground beef, and I substituted the oregano and basil with some Italian Herbs I got from Spice Hunter.
adapted from Noble Pig
2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
1-1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 cup whole milk (I used 1%)
3 cups beef broth, divided
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 eggs, beaten
4 Tablespoons dried oregano leaves (subbed with Italian Herbs)
4 teaspoons dried basil (subbed with Italian Herbs)
2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 lb. ground chuck (I used 3 lbs of ground beef and 1 lb of ground pork)
In a large mixing bowl stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, milk, 1 cup of beef broth, parsley, eggs, oregano, garlic, kosher salt, black pepper, basil, red pepper flakes and nutmeg. Add ground chuck and mix thoroughly with a fork. Using a fork prevents overmixing and compacting which can toughen meatballs. (Amen to that sista!)
The best way to shape meatballs is with a portioning scoop that has a retractable blade that releases the meat (I used my cookie scoop). Make each meatball about 2″ in diameter or 1.5 ounces each (I made mine about 1 oz each). Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange the meatballs on a pan so they are not touching.
Cathy says she gets 35 meatballs on a tray and this recipe makes two trays so 70 meatballs. However, I ended up with 3 trays of about 33-34 each, ending up with 100 1-inch meatballs.
Cover the bottom of the pan with 1 cup of beef broth and bake for 25 minutes at 450 degrees.
See all the fat that comes out of the meat and settles on the pan bottom? That’s because 1) I use ground beef, not ground chuck, which is fattier, and 2) I use ground pork. ALSO, my beef and my pork are both from the farmer, not the grocer. Therefore, the fat content is higher as it’s not lean cut like you get from the grocer.
Remove meatballs from pan and bake second tray of meatballs. Cool meatballs completely, cover and keep refrigerated until use.
If you are like me and want to freeze the extras, place all the meatballs you can fit without touching each other onto a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 2 hours. Once frozen, remove from sheet and place in a sealable freezer bag.
NOW, finally, on to the soup!
Amanda’s Meatball Soup
20 1-inch meatballs
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tsp garlic, minced
15 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tsp chicken soup base (bouillon will work as well)
1 1/2 cups zucchini juice (you can substitute water, broth, tomato juice, anything you want, I just happened to have this in the freezer from my zucchini post!)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp Garlic Herb Sensation (I got this from Spice Hunter, but you can use any seasoning you like)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup Fideo (See my Sopa de Fideo soup for a picture of these yummy noodles)
In a 5 quart Dutch Oven or large soup pot, saute the red onion and garlic in olive oil over medium low heat for 4-5 minutes, or until tender, but not browned. Add meatballs and turn to coat with oil and brown for a minute or two. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT the peas and Fideo. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1.5 hours.
After the soup has been simmering for about an hour, submerge the frozen peas in a bowl of hot water. When soup hits the 1.5 hour mark, drain the peas and add them to the soup. Add Fideo and stir. Let simmer for another 20-30 minutes, or until noodles are nice and tender. Serve!