Saturday, March 26, 2016

"Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals - Comfort Foods" - Italian Wedding Soup

Date I made this recipe:  March 19, 2019

Rachael Ray's 30-Minte Meals – Comfort Foods by Rachael Ray
Published by:  Lake Isle Press
ISBN:  1-891105-05-1
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  Italian Wedding Soup – p. 15

I don't know about the rest of the country, but the weather in these parts – Minnesota – has been up and down all winter like a yo-yo, idling for a while in the high 40's, then back down, then up to 60, back down to the 30's, then up to 70 and back down, rinse and repeat. 

During one of these cold snaps, I pulled this book off the shelf because cold weather means comfort food, does it not?  But wouldn't you know, the very next day when I had time to make it, the weather hit a new high of 70 and who wants comfort food when it's time to pull out the grill?

But I am learning to be patient and so I waited for the right opportunity when the weather turned cold again and then went shopping – ha!  And by the time I made the soup, there was just enough of a chill in the air to make these efforts all worthwhile. 

And so soup it was and this was a very good soup to boot.  Although I read recently that Italian Wedding Soup is an Italian-American dish and not one Italians in Italy eat, I don't care.  Because this soup is the soup of my childhood.

I think I've explained before that every year when we traveled from Michigan to New Jersey to visit my grandmother, she made sure we were stocked up on pasta and olive oil and Italian cookies and canned tomatoes and canned soups, of which Progresso's Chickarina, the name it gave to its version of Italian Wedding Soup, was my favorite.  It came with little meatballs and little pasta balls (also known as Ancini di Pepe) and it was fabulous.

Many years ago, I stumbled upon a version of this soup in Good Housekeeping magazine and made it over and over and over again.  While it closely approximated Chickarina, it also included escarole which is chopped and then simmered in the broth.  Delicious!

I didn't think another recipe could float my boat until I made Rachael Ray's but it did plus it's a little easier to make than the Good Housekeeping recipe so I may keep this one on hand because it will still impress guests without having me spend hours in my kitchen.

Rachael's meatball recipe for this soup included nutmeg and while I am not overly fond of nutmeg, the amount here won't kill you.  And I used – unintentionally – a bit more meat than what she called for but the meatballs were still great.  The hot broth poaches them and so they cook in very little time.  But then again, when you're Rachael Ray, none of her recipes in this book or in her other cookbooks require a lot of time to cook and I like that. 

This cookbook – Comfort Foods – is one of the rare cookbooks I own where almost every dish sounds like "the one" [I should make].  I toyed with making "Homemade Chicken and Stars Soup" (p. 14), "French Country Chicken and Sausage Soup" (p. 21) and  "Turkey Corn Chili" (p. 24) as well as "Portobello Burgers with Spinach Pesto and Smoked Cheese" (p. 40), "Mystic-Style Portuguese Sea Scallops Over Rice" (p. 110) and I said, everything sounded good.

And given my frustration with the last three recipes I've made, let me just say that Rachael gets a gold star in the recipe clarity category because everything was as clear as clear could be.  Why, she even "translated" her own measurements such as "two turns around the pan" and "a handful" into Every Day (with Rachael Ray—the name of her magazine – sorry, couldn't resist) measurements we cooks are used to:  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil is equal to two tablespoons and a handful of grated cheese is equal to 1/3 cup.  So thoughtful, that Rachael!

Just remember, "soup is good food" and this soup is really great food and you should make it. 

Buon appetito a tutti!

Italian Wedding Soup – serves up to 4
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (two turns around the pan)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks from heart of stalk, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
¾ pound ground veal, or beef, pork and veal mixture
1 egg, beaten
½ cup plain bread crumbs (a couple of handfuls)
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano or Romano cheese (a handful)
2 pinches ground nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 quart (32 ounces) chicken broth
2 cups warm water
1 cup dried pasta (broken up fettuccini, ditalini, rings, egg pasta – whatever you like) Ann's Note:  I used orzo
A handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, or 2 teaspoons dried
Extra grated cheese, for the table
Crusty Italian bread, for dipping
In a deep pot heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add chopped vegetables and bay leaves.  Cover pot and cook 5 or 6 minutes, stirring constantly.

While the veggies cook, combine ground meat with egg, bread crumbs, cheese, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Uncover veggies, add broth and water, and raise heat to high.  Bring liquids to a boil.  Roll the meat mixture into bite-size meatballs and drop into boiling broth.  Add pasta.  Return to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes, until pasta is al dente and meatballs are cooked through—split one open and make sure there is no pink left in the meat.  Add parsley and remove from heat.

Serve soup in shallow bowls with grated cheese and bread.

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