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Monday, November 28, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup





Here's a recipe that can be a vegetarian option even with "meatball" in the title. I often make it with a vegetarian meatball recipe introduced to me by one of my daughters-in-law. It's very easy to make a huge pot of this for keeping in the refrigerator or freezer for quick family meals during the hectic holiday season.

As seen in the photo above, the soup was made with a couple of the variations noted at the end of the recipe, turning it into a little bit more like pasta fagioli. But that, after all, is part of the charm of homemade soup--you just add a little bit of this, a little bit of that, substitute what you have in your pantry for what you don't and, voila, you have an entirely new dish. Of course there is the little problem of never being able to quite duplicate that soup from last week's leftovers that everybody in the family wants you to make again, but you just keep improvising and making new "best ever" dishes. But here, in recipe form, are the basics for a warm, inexpensive fall or winter entree.

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup
(OR Spaghetti Sauce Soup, if you skip the meatballs!)

2 large onions, chopped--1 1/2 to 2 cups
1 28 to 29 oz can or jar spaghetti sauce
1 to 2 chopped red and/or green bell peppers
1 12 to 16 oz pkg chopped spinach--don't thaw before adding
2 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes or packets
1/2 t 1 t hot pepper flakes (optional)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 to 29 oz can crushed or dicd tomatoes
2 large carrots, grated
Italian seasoning, oregano, salt and black pepper to taste
1 T sugar
1 or 2 15 to 16 oz cans garbanzo beans, including liquid
water
1 lb pre-cooked meatballs (frozen pre-packaged or made from your own recipe, with or without meat)

1. Saute onions and four of the garlic cloves in a little oil until the onions are soft and slightly browned.
2.  Meanwhile, combine all the other ingredients except the spinach and meatballs in a large pot. Fill the spaghetti sauce, beans, and tomato cans with water to rinse out and add to the soup. You should add about 2 to 3 cans of water to attain a good "soupy" consistency.
3.  Add the sauteed onions and garlic and simmer for an hour or so. (This could be put on LOW in a large slow cooker for about 3 to 4 hours)
4.  About an hour before serving, add the remaining garlic, the spinach, and the meatballs. Taste and adjust for seasoning as needed. If the soup is too thick, you can also add some water at this time too.

The soup keeps well (is often thought even better the second day) and freezes well.

Variations:
Other vegetables can be added, such as corn, grated zucchini, more beans, kale, etc.
Substitute a cup or so of butternut squash puree for the carrots--or use cubed or grated squash.
Pasta can be added to the soup as well, in one of two ways.
Dry pasta:  Add one to two cups of pasta, your choice of shapes, with the other ingredients in step 2.
Cooked pasta:  Add two to four cups cooked pasta with the spinach and meatballs in step 4.
Beans: while garbanzos are my favorite for this soup, any other dried beans may be substituted as well.)


Vegetarian Meatballs

2 c grated Longhorn, cheddar, or mozzarella cheese--or a mixture
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 c fine dry bread crumbs
3/4 c pecans, ground or finely chopped
2 pkg vegetarian broth or bouillon granules (See NOTE)
garlic to taste (may use garlic powder or minced fresh garlic)
5 to 6 eggs

1.  Saute the onions in a small amount of olive or canola oil.
2.  Combine all ingredients but the eggs in a food processor fitted with a plastic mixing blade and blend until evenly mixed.
3.  Add the eggs one at a time, until the mixture just comes together and can be formed into a ball with your fingers.
4.  Shape the mixture into balls of your preferred size--I like to use one of my round measuring tablespoons as it makes these quite even and a nice round shape. For best flavor and even cooking, I would never make these larger than a ping pong ball.
You will end up with 40 to 70 meatballs, depending on the size you make them.
5.  To freeze for later use:  put the balls on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then repackage in a tightly sealed freezer bag and remove only as many as needed.
6.  To cook immediately:  you may saute the balls in a little oil on the stove top or use the method I prefer--place without touching on a pan and bake at 350 degrees until the outsides are golden brown and just starting to get crisp. The length of time will depend on how large you have made the balls.

NOTE:  If you use bouillon cubes instead of granules, crush these before adding to the other ingredients, to be sure they are well mixed.

The photo below gives a more close up view of one of the meatballs in today's soup.




















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