Tuscan Meatball Soup

My love of soup began early in my childhood.  I was always surrounded by some simmering pot of lovely goodness.  Whether it was lentils and beans, homemade chicken soup, Pasta Fagioli, or Tuscan Meatball Soup, I loved having a nice hot bowl of soup and of course, this always meant hot Italian bread with butter.  Come the fall, this was all I could think about, well that and what I was getting for Christmas.  It was symbolic to me of one season coming to an end and one beginning and all the new possibilities.

If you are not moved by food and memories, you have not truly lived.  So when I became a Mom and started cooking for my kidlets, I wanted them to feel as loved and nurtured as I had with those soups of my youth.  When they were sick they had homemade chicken soup, when they wanted some tomato soup with their grilled cheese I made my roasted tomato soup, and so it began my love of soup soon became their love of soup.  To this day, into their teens and 20’s, they still request their favorite soup for meals and just because, and I am more than happy to oblige.

What mix of meat should you use?

This soup is a tweak on my Dad’s Italian Meatball soup, my Dad’s was more like a thick stew, and he added chunks of beef, and it was delicious, but I prefer to keep mine like a nice hearty soup, and I like to add spinach to amp up the veg factor.   I like to make my meatballs with a mix of Italian sausage, popped out of the casings, along with ground beef, 80/20 mix is perfect, but you could use a leaner ratio, just keep in mind you want some fat in the meat mixture for flavor and a lower ratio will not yield the same flavor.  I also like to use chicken broth, which my Dad did not, he loved the hearty beef broth flavors, but I like the chicken broth in this, to me it rounds out the flavor and isn’t as overpowering as beef broth can be in some soups.  But you can certainly add the beef broth if you prefer.

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Be sure to allow a room for the meatballs to sear nicely.  Do in batches if necessary.

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Why do I need a panade?

I often get asked why my meatballs are so moist and light, and full of flavor, and my response is always the same, since I was a little girl watching my grandma and father in the kitchen, I paid attention to the soaking of the stale bread in milk.  My grandmother left bread out a few days before she would make her Sunday gravy.  If you come to my house, you will notice that I always have bread out to dry.  I keep the ends from loaves of white, Italian, and even wheat bread, to use for my panades.  It makes me smile to see it and I make meatballs once a week in my house, it feeds my soul and makes me infinitely happy!  My grandmother made the absolute best meatballs I have ever had, I aspire to her level of meatballs but she set the bar so damn high I know I am not in the same realm, but mine are pretty damn good, and the panade, a fancy culinary term for bread soaked in milk, another reason my meatballs are so light and moist is I do not overwork my meat, and I will not use anything but a mix of ground pork, ground beef and ground veal, also known as meatloaf mix, now in this soup I stuck with Italian sausage, out of the casing, and ground beef, but you will never catch me using plain ground beef for meatballs.  They do not have enough fat, or flavor, in my opinion to ever be a true meatball.  Some may argue but our family always used a mix of the three meats, years ago markets did not carry a blend known as meatloaf mix, and my Dad and grandmother would use ground veal, ground pork or sausage meat, and ground beef in different proportions to obtain stellar meatballs.

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This is the money shot, right here! See the juicy goodness!  All possible because of the meat mixture and the panade, and this is why you need to ensure this step!

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The soup will intensify in color and richness as it simmers.  It will also thicken up with the addition of the ditalini.  I tend to use more pasta than most people in my soup but you can use less than a half or even 3/4 cup.

Soup for the soul!

There is something so nostalgic and so comforting about food from our childhood, and to me soup just screams this.  It nurshies body, mind and soul, and I am so pleased to share this Tuscan Meatball soup with you.  It will soon be your families go to cold weather, anytime, soup!

 

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Sinfully,

Susan xoxo

Tuscan Meatball Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A classic, Tuscan soup that's as healthy as it is flavorful and hearty. The perfect Italian comfort soup!

  * You can use spinach, regular kale, or even Swiss Chard, for the greens in this soup, and any small pasta shape you desire.

Credit: CrazySexySavor.com/Susan Mangieri-Maurath

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of chopped Tuscan Kale uncooked
  • 3 carrots diced
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 3 stalks of celery diced
  • 1 lb. of  ground beef  80/20 preferred
  • 1 small zucchini diced
  • 2 potatoes peeled and diced
  • 1 lb. of Italian sausage spicy or mild, casings removed ( I prefer spicy)
  • 1 32 oz. can of whole tomatoes (diced) & including the juice
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of small pasta uncooked (I used ditalini)
  • 1 32. oz container of chicken or beef stock
  • Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, rosemary, and thyme (you can use dried herbs if you prefer) use a tablespoon chopped fresh or a teaspoon of each dried
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 3  slices of stale bread soaked in 1/4 cup of milk crust removed (panade) fancy culinary term for soaked bread in milk, but the trick to moist meatballs
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

For the meatballs

  1. In a medium bowl, combine stale bread and milk soak for about 15 minutes to soften bread.  In a large bowl combine ground beef and sausage, add in cheese, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 egg, add in panade (bread and milk) squeeze excess moisture out with hands,  1 tbsp. of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley,  season with salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
  2. Mix with hands to combine, but do not overmix.  If you have tough, dense  meatballs, it is because you overmix your meat.  Just to combine ingredients.  Roll into golf sized balls and set aside on greased sheet pan.  Set aside.

For the soup

  1. In a large Dutch oven, add a tablespoon of EVOO over medium heat.  Begin to sear the meatballs, careful not to over crowd the pot.  You are not looking to cook them through, just get a nice sear.  Set aside on large plate, and continue the same way with the remainder of the meatballs.  When they are all nicely seared,  lower temp slightly, and add in onion, garlic, carrots and celery.  Mix well to combine, scraping the bottom of the pot with the drippings rendered from the meat.
  2. Cook for about two to three minutes, then add in the tomatoes along with their juice.  Mix well to combine.  Add in the tomato paste, and chicken broth, along with the zucchini and potatoes.  Add in rosemary, thyme, add meatballs back to pot, adjust seasoning, and cook for at least 40 minutes to meld flavors.
  3. When soup has simmered ample time, turn up heat slightly, and add in uncooked pasta.  Cook about 15 minutes or until pasta is cooked through.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Ladle into soup bowls, and top with copious amounts of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and serve with crusty Italian bread to sop of broth.  Mangia!

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