January 23, 2013

Brrrr, It's Cold Out There! {Recipe} Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup

I am ready for January to be over. February, too, for that matter. It's something like -3 degrees outside right now and I just ran errands for two hours. Saying I am chilled to the bone might be an understatement. The only way I have been getting through this month is with copious amounts of hot soup, steaming tea with lots of sugar and milk, and hot yoga. I've got the soup and the tea in front of me and the goal is to make it to Bikram tonight to warm up. However, in order for that to happen I'm going to need some serious motivation to leave my blankets and a small miracle to get my car to start in this weather.

My most recent soup concoction has been a Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup. The soup itself came out DELICIOUS, but I'm not terribly pleased with the meatballs. I used Lightlife Gimme Lean Ground Beef and I think next time I will use either veggie Italian sausage (I like Morning Star for this) or Quorn meatballs. Lightlife Gimme Lean, to me, tastes like the Original Boca burgers and many other fake meat substitutes - but I should say that 1. I have no idea what meat tastes like anymore, since Tony tells me tastes nothing like real meat, and 2. I don't like the taste of meat substitutes that actually try to taste like meat because I don't like the taste of meat at all. Basically, I am saying that Gimme Lean just isn't for me, but that you might like it, especially if you like Boca Burgers.

Here's the recipe. I highly suggest you use Better than Bouillon by Superior Touch. It is the BEST vegetable broth out there. SO delicious and flavorful, you really only need 1/2 to 3/4 of what they actually call for. Many thanks to the Adirondack Chick for introducing me to this product!

This recipe will make about 8 smallish servings. I doubled it to make 8 large servings.

For the meatballs:
  • 14oz Ground beef substitute of your choice OR
  • 3/4 pound ground beef/chicken and 1/2 pound beef/chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup of Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan and/or Romano cheese (or Italian blend)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg (optional or use if using real meat)
  • 3 tablespoons milk (optional or use if using real meat)
Will make about 40 small meatballs

For the soup:
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced sweet yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots)
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 10 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 cup small pasta (I use orzo)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill (optional)
  • 12 ounces baby spinach,  roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  1. For the meatballs, place the ground "meat", bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork, or, if you're like me, squish it around with your hands. You can also add your egg and milk here if you like or if you are using real meat. If using real meat bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. If using faux meat, cook for about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  2. In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened. This may take 10 minutes or more. I usually put the cover on to speed this up. If you double the recipe it will take a while for the vegetables to become soft.
  3. Add the broth and wine and bring to a boil. 
  4. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. 
  5. Add the dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. 
  6. Taste for salt and pepper, if you are using Better than Bouillon you will not need additional salt. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted.
  7. Serve with grated Italian cheese to garnish.

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