Sometimes you just have to ignore the blatant reality.
And I’m not just talking about Republican Congress creatures here.
No, I’m talking about what I did Sunday. I ignored the fact that it was almost 90 degrees outside and went ahead with a plan to whip up a big ol’ pot o’ soup.
In case you’re wondering when referring to whipping up a big old pot of soup it is permissible to write “big ol’ pot o’ soup.”
I just wouldn’t do it too often lest people think you’re nuts.
This might just be me but I think by the time the last weekend of September rolls around you are officially well into fall. And, at least at our house, when you’re well into fall it’s time to make a (Last time) big ol’ pot o’ soup.
A couple of weeks ago my wife got a jump on soup season by making a big old pot of (Is that better?) chicken stock.
My wife and I like making chicken stock for a couple of reasons.
Reason No. 1: It’s easy.
Reason No. B: It gives us a chance to clear out all of the unused, slightly aging produce that has accumulated in our refrigerator.
When she was done, my wife put her chicken stock into several plastic containers (with two cups of stock in each) and stored them in the freezer to be used, later, in soup recipes that call for it.
As it turns out, it was a good thing my wife got a jump on soup season because the recipe I worked with Sunday called for 12 cups of chicken stock.
Earlier in the week, I came across a group of recipes from Giada De Laurentiis on Twitter. One of the recipes was for an Italian Wedding soup which I thought sounded pretty good so I decided to try it on Sunday.
I like Italian Wedding soup but I’m not sure how it got its name. It might be because it’s served at Italian weddings but I’ve never been to an Italian wedding so I don’t know if that’s true.
I’m just guessing here but I’m thinking an Italian wedding would be fun. I was raised Catholic and, when I was older, attended a lot of Catholic weddings and most of them were fun.
I mean, I think they were fun but I don’t exactly remember what with the drinking and all.
I like Giada, by the way. For one thing, I always feel sophisticated when I say her name. It’s like I’m actually speaking Italian.
Sigh. I wish I had a sophisticated-sounding name. My name just sounds like a place where they keep stray Mikes.
I also like Giada because her recipes are always excellent and easy to follow. For someone with such a sophisticated name, Giada knows how to keep things relatively simple.
Also, when our 21-year-old daughter Emma studied in Florence, Italy last semester, my wife and I went over to visit her and took in not just Florence but also Rome and the Amalfi coast. So, really, Giada and I are practically family.
Here’s the deal about Italian Wedding soup: It’s not that hard to make.
Basically you just boil some chicken stock and toss in some meatballs along with some chopped endive and eggs. Sure, you have to make the meatballs, but who doesn’t like doing that?
I guess, to make things even simpler, you could just buy some premade meatballs but-come on-you don’t want to be a kitchen sissy, do you?
When I made the meatballs for the soup, I used a pound of Scimeca’s hot Italian sausage from Kansas City that I had stored in the freezer for just such an occasion.
I usually buy Scimeca’s sausage at the Brookside Cosentino’s in Kansas City but you can find it at most KC area grocery stores.
I don’t want to overstate things here but Scimeca’s is only the best Italian sausage in the history of history.
When I made the soup, I followed Giada’s meatball recipe. I could have used my own meatball recipe but you know what they say “When using a Giada recipe do what Giada does.”
I don’t know if they actually say that but they should.
As a bonus, and at no extra charge to you, I’m throwing in a recipe for pasta with clam sauce that I got from my Uncle Jim and Aunt Ev some 30 years ago.
I don’t want to toot my own horn here but when Emma first got to Florence, she ordered pasta with clam sauce at a restaurant and later told me that mine was better.
So, toot, toot.
The recipe calls for canned clams. Of course, fresh clams would be better but since we happen to be a ways from the beach here, we tend to work with what we’ve got.
The original recipe called for white wine but I use red wine because …well because I like red wine.
So the next time you want to feel sophisticated just whip up a big pot of Italian Wedding soup or pasta with clam sauce, pour yourself a glass of Chianti and practice saying Giada De Laurentiis.
GIADA’S ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
A couple of notes here: As you can see Giada calls for 8-ounces of beef and pork but to keep things simple I went with one pound each of beef and pork and then sort of eyeballed the other meatball ingredients to match.
Also, rather than using one piece of bread in the meatballs I opted to use about a cup of panko breadcrumbs because I had them on hand. Well, not actually on hand. That would be stupid. I had the breadcrumbs in our pantry.
One final note: Although it’s perfectly fine to serve the soup right away we found that its flavor was 10 times better the next night. I guess it’s because the meatballs have more time to sit in the soup. So, the next time I make this recipe (And there will be a next time) I will probably do so a day ahead. But this is America so you can do whatever you want. For now, I guess.
For the Meatballs:
1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed bread torn into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces pound ground beef
8 ounces pound ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Soup:
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1-pound curly endive, coarsely chopped (1 pound of escarole would be a good substitution)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and pork. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.
To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and curly endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the curly endive is tender, about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Finish soup with parmesan cheese if desired.
Jim and Ev’s Pasta with Clam Sauce
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-6.5 ounces cans of chopped clams
½ cup red wine
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
¼ cup of fresh chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh basil
½ to 1 teaspoon of oregano
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
I lb. of your favorite pasta. I find that this works best with spaghetti noodles or linguine
Sautee garlic in the butter and olive oil. Meanwhile, drain clams and add the clam juice in with the garlic.
I probably shouldn’t have to mention this but try to remember to save the clams. They will come in handy later.
Boil the clam juice for one minute then chop and stir in the tomatoes.
Add parsley, basil, oregano, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
When ready, add clams to sauce and heat through. Bring a pot of salted water to boil add pasta and cook until done to your preference.
I used to use the time-tested method of throwing a piece of pasta to the wall and seeing if it sticks but my wife doesn’t like pasta on the wall. Gee, some people.
Drain pasta and mix with the clam sauce. Serve with fresh-grated Parmesan, crusty bread and a glass to Chianti.