Friday, July 13, 2012

recipe: Spaghetti and Meatball Soup

Well, we've had some good eats around our place recently.  Sadly, this recipe didn't "WOW" us as much as the others.  It needs a little bit of work, so expect some updates the next time I try to make it.

Pros:  It was fast, cheap, simple, low-cal, and filling.
Cons:  Not extremely flavorful, had to add quite a bit of salt, meatballs were "alright".

What would I do to fix it?

-> For this recipe, I found I had to add a lot of fresh and dried herbs, even salt, to flavor the broth...  way more than the recipe originally called for.  It made me wonder if I did something wrong, because the original SkinnyTaste recipe has tons of comments about how great this dish is.  So maybe it was me, I don't know!  I normally don't add salt to anything, and even cut it in half for most recipes (except baking, of course).  However, I found myself adding quite a bit of sea salt more than once, so that was surprising.

-> Instead of making 36 tiny meatballs, I made 18 or 20 large ones.  Once they were in my bowl, I chopped them up into pieces with my spoon, but making larger meatballs cut down on my time.  In hindsight, I might just drop same-sized chunks of meat into the broth instead of taking lots of time to shape them perfectly.  A little more rustic, but I wouldn't complain.

-> The meatballs taste was okay.  I think I'd recommend using either: lean ground beef, chicken sausage, or turkey sausage.  I might also play around with a different cheese (something strong, maybe asiago?) and more dried herbs and/or salt in the meatballs.

-> I had personal issues with the noodles.  I broke them up into pieces as directed, but it made it really difficult to get even amounts of everything in the bowls.  The first two bowls ended up being mostly broth, as the noodles sunk and were too tiny to scoop well.  The last few bowls ended up being all noodles, no broth!  So I think next time I'd use a different type of noodle:  maybe some kind of fusilli,  penne, or even bowtie for a little bit of fun.

-> Lastly, I'm considering finely chopping some celery (keep the leafy ends! they add TONS of flavor) and carrots with the onions, and instead of just pouring the broth in the pot and adding the onions, sauteeing those veggies with some olive oil and garlic and red crushed pepper flakes.  In many of my other pasta dishes, I begin this way because it really adds another dimension of flavor.  I feel like this dish as is was missing that depth of flavor.

Every night when we have dinner, if it's a new recipe (or we're out to eat), we "rate" our food.  Usually, the recipes rate from a 7.5-10 on a 1 to 10 scale.  Please don't laugh; this is very scientific.  If a recipe or meal doesn't make at least a 7, then it just wasn't that good.  Last night Uz rated it at a 7 (and had kind of a questionable look on his face).  His comments were that the meatballs weren't as tasty as he'd expect, and he wished they were beef.  We also put some Cholula in the broth and that really helped give it some more flavor.

I guess I've talked your heads off, so on to the recipe.  I'm including my changes but I'll link to the original if you'd like to view that.  Maybe you can tell me where I messed up!

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup

Adapted from SkinnyTaste
Serves: 6
Original Stats:  213 cals
Modified Stats: 300-375 cals (depending what kind of meat you use!)

5 cups low sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 cups water
1-2 chopped cloves garlic (maybe more, if you love garlic)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 onion, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped (modified version)
1 celery stalk with leaves, finely chopped (modified version)
1 tbsp olive oil (modified version)
3-4 tbsp tomato sauce (I used Hunt's Basil, Garlic, Oregano tomato sauce)
pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
kosher salt and fresh pepper
6 oz dry pasta (original calls for cut up spaghetti, but I would try bowtie or penne or something similar)

For the meatballs:

16 oz ground meat (original calls for 99% lean ground turkey, I would use lean ground beef, chicken sausage, or turkey sausage)
1 small egg
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (I might use asiago or a mix of the two, even mozzarella!)
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 onion, chopped
1 chopped clove garlic (more if you love garlic!)
dried herbs, such as thyme, oregano, basil, parsley


*Modified Version:*
In a soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil.  When hot, add onion, carrot, celery, red crushed pepper and saute until soft.  Add garlic and saute one minute more.  Add chicken broth, water, 2 tbsp chopped parsely, tomato sauce, fresh black pepper to a boil; simmer 5 minutes.

Original Version:
In a soup pot over medium heat, bring chicken broth, water, 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 tbsp chopped parsley, 1/4 of the chopped onion, tomato sauce, crushed red pepper flakes and fresh black pepper to a boil; simmer about 5 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the meatballs by combining ground meat, cheese, egg, garlic, onion, parsley, basil, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and any dried herbs.  Mix WELL.  Form into meatballs; you can make 36 small or 18 large meatballs or similar-sized chunks of meat.

forgot to take a picture of the egg!  whoops!

Gently drop meatballs into the broth (you can use a ladle if needed), cook about 3 minutes; add pasta and cook according to package directions. 

Add fresh basil, adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

I ate mine with 1/2 tbsp parmesan cheese, some fresh basil, and 1 oz ciabatta.  It was lovely, and I'm sure it'll be a staple this fall and winter... once I get it perfected, that is!

UPDATE:  It's so much better as leftovers!  Something about it just sitting and marinating I guess...  YUM.

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