Soup makes an inviting meal with a tantalizing aroma that welcomes everyone to the table. Minestra is Italian for soup, and minestrone is a hearty vegetable soup. In Italy, specific recipes are rarely followed; cooks use ingredients they have on hand, including pasta, beans, leftover meat and vegetables.
This meatball minestrone is a one pot meal. (The recipe can be doubled easily. If you have time, make a large pot and use it for another meal.) Fennel seeds and oregano give the meatballs a distinctive taste. Fennel seeds are oval, green-brown seeds from the common fennel plant. They have an anise taste and are used in many liqueurs. They can be found in the spice section of your market and will keep for 6 months.
Brushing the top of the bread with garlic gives it just a hint of spice that doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors in the meal. If you’re a big garlic fan, though, simply add another clove to the recipe.
The pasta will absorb the soup liquid if left to sit for any length of time. If you are not serving the soup immediately, cook the pasta in a separate pot of water for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil to the liquid and toss in the pasta to keep it from sticking. Add the pasta to the soup a few minutes before serving to warm through.
Linda Gassenheimer is the author of 14 cookbooks including her newest, “The Flavors of the Florida Keys” and “Mix ‘n Match Meals in Minutes for People with Diabetes.” Visit Linda on her web page at www.DinnerInMinutes.com or e-mail her at Linda@DinnerInMinutes.com.
Calorie counts: This meal contains 596 calories per serving with 23 percent of calories from fat.
Premade: Garlic bread can be bought already prepared to save time.
Pasta: Acini pepe or pastina are tiny pastas that are used for soup. If you have difficulty finding either, use orzo or any small pieces of pasta.
Wine suggestion: Some say soup, being a liquid, doesn’t require a wine. I say phooey on that. And just look at the ingredients here – tomatoes, fennel, oregano, garlic and ground beef. This is a liquid pizza. I’d try a nice Italian chianti.
Shopping list: 6 ounces very lean ground beef, 1 small bottle of fennel seeds, one 8-ounce can low-sodium tomato juice, one small can low-sodium whole tomatoes, one small box Acini pepe or other small pasta, one small package washed, ready-to-eat spinach, one small can chickpeas, one small bunch fresh basil, one small piece Parmesan cheese and one small loaf Italian bread or rolls.
Staples: Olive oil, Parmesan cheese; dried oregano; onion; carrot; celery; garlic; fat-free, low-salt chicken broth; salt; and black peppercorns.