Monday, February 9, 2009

Spinach Meatball Minestrone with Tortellini

This soup is most delicious if made the day ahead (if you happen to plan ahead), but it's perfectly good as soon as it's made.

It's best not to add the uncooked tortellini until you reheat it, otherwise they become flabby and mushy. You may need to add a little more stock when reheating as the tortellini tend to absorb the liquid.

Spinach Meatball Minestrone With Three-Cheese Tortellini

Note: I always use Barilla's dried tortellini for this soup, they are just the right size and not too big for the soup spoon. "Three Cheese" (8.9 oz pkg.). The amount to use is up to you; I usually use 1/2 of the package for 1 recipe of soup. You can use the the entire package, but that will likely require more stock.

The meatballs can be made ahead and frozen until you're ready to prepare the soup. I always double the recipe, and freeze half, so I have some on hand, that way the soup can go together in moments. They are also good little appetizer, heated up, and served with warmed marinara sauce!

For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground beef (can also use half ground beef/half sweet Italian sausage)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped onion
About 1/4 cup bread crumbs (fresh or dried)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, slightly beaten 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients; lightly mix well with your hands until evenly combined.

Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in large soup pot. Make one bite-size patty and brown in olive oil till done. Taste for seasoning and correct rest of meatballl mixture, if necessary.

Form remaining mixture into bite-size (about 3/4 to 1-inch size) balls. Saute in soup pot until brown and done. Remove from pot; reserve pot.

For the Soup:
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 (14- or 15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and juice
1 (15-ounce) can kidney (or cannellini) beans and juice
6-8 cups beef or chicken stock (depending on amount of tortellini used)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 to 1 whole package. (8.9 oz. size) Barilla's dried Three Cheese Tortellini (preferable) OR refrigerated cheese tortellini (such as Buitoni)

For serving:
Freshly grated Parmesan and/or pesto.

Method: Add carrots, celery, onion and zucchini to soup pot, adding more olive oil, if necessary. Saute until tender, scraping up any residual bits left after browning the meatballs.

Add tomatoes, beans, 6 cups stock, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and meatballs. Stir and bring to low boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Taste for seasoning. Stir in tortellini; you may need to add more stock at this point.

Bring to gentle boil and cook just until tortellini is done (al dente).

Serve sprinkled with fresh Parmesan and/or dollop of pesto.

My additional notes: I often add other vegetables to the soup, depending upon what I have on hand; fresh baby spinach leaves, bite size slices of string beans, garbanzo beans, etc.

Recipe is courtesy of chefbeck, a wonderful cook from California who has generously shared numerous delicious recipes.