Or as Parker would say, “Bowww-ls.”
I know, I know, enough of the soup, enough of Ina. But you know, this book is really good, and I’m trying to get all my soups made before it gets too warm. (It’s already in the 80’s here.) And don’t act like you couldn’t use some balls of meat right about now. So, here we go again.
I first saw this recipe in “Back to Basics” when I bought it a few weeks ago, and then I saw her make it on her show last weekend. I had the day off today, so I figure what better time to knock it out? I had pretty much everything on hand, and where I didn’t, I simply subbed things out.
The meatballs are pretty straight forward–meat, breadcrumb, egg, and a few flavorings. For my binder, I used 1/2 a cup of dried breadcrumbs, as well as a heaping tablespoon of toasted pinenuts, finely chopped. I also added a 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, a teaspoon of fresh thyme, and a 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flake. The Contessa says to throw all the meatball ingredients into a bowl and mix with a fork. I prefer to combine the binding ingredients first, then add the meat and lightly combine with my fingertips. This is just extra insurance against overworking the meat, which makes a tough meatball. As far as the meat goes, the recipe calls for ground chicken and chicken sausage. I had neither, but I did have a package of 7% ground turkey (which is why I added the extra seasonings). It came together nicely, and I portioned them out onto my baking sheets. (Wet hands make for easier ball handling. Things don’t stick that way.)
Here’s where the mini-disaster occured.
I used to last of my parchment for my first baking sheet. I thought I had read somewhere that you can use wax and parchment paper interchangeably, so I used the former to line my second sheet. I popped them both into the oven, and within a couple of minutes, my oven was smoking. A quick Google lets me know that hey, idiot, you shouldn’t bake wax paper. So I quickly pulled that tray out and transferred them over to a new, foil lined, and Pam-ed baking sheet. I salvaged the meatballs, but just so you know, don’t bake wax paper.
So while all this was happening, I was also trying to chop my aromatics. I used about and onion and half, since that’s what was hanging around in the vegetable drawer, and two carrots, since that’s all I had left after this soup. I didn’t have any celery, so I obviously didn’t put any in, which is fine with me, as I’m not too big on it anyway. So those sweated out in a teaspoon of olive oil, waaaaay less than the two tablespoons she says. (If I’m not making roux, I really don’t see why so much fat is necessary.) I added the stock, and let it simmer for about ten minutes so the carrots could cook all the way through.
Meanwhile, I cooked the pasta in a seperate pot. The recipe states to throw it in with everything else and let it cook in the soup. However, one of the first things I remember my mom teaching me in the kitchen (while making chicken noodle soup) is to ALWAYS cook your pasta seperate in situations like these. Unless you’re planning on finishing that huge pot of soup as soon as it’s off the burner, the pasta will soak up all the broth. You end up with too-thick soup and swollen, gummy noodles. So, I cook my pasta seperately.
While all this business was going on, I stemmed all that friggin spinach. (Ready to eat my ass. Hey Ready-Pac people, I’d rather have dirty, stemmed spinach than triple-washed spinach with stems. Just a thought.) I reallllly hate doing this. My mom used to delegate this task to me when I was little when she’d make her spinach pasta salad. Anyway, I stemmed all that crap, roughly chopped it, and added everything (meatballs and greens) into the pot. I turned off the heat and added the juice of a Meyer lemon, since I had omitted the white wine. (Don’t keep that particular variety in the house.) Served myself up a bowl, grated a flurry of Parm over, and enjoyed it in the beautifully sunny dining room with the door to the back wide open.
Quite tasty, if I do say so myself. The meatballs were ever so slightly lacking in flavor, but I’m fairly certain this is due to the fact I didn’t use the sausage in the meat mixture. Now excuse me, I’m off to take a walk with the kid outside in the late afternoon, 85 degree weather.