Friday, February 29, 2008

Italian Meatball Soup

My brothers and sisters surprised our mother with a day of skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Resort on California State Route 88 this week. Initially, a brother talked about treating mom to a day of skiing.

One-by-one, each sibling expressed interest in joining them. My task was to bring soup for Mom.

Since her birthday falls in the middle of winter, it was an appropriate treat. After Dad taught Mom to ski in the 1950s, the couple spend many hours on the slopes of Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park. Each child was in turn groomed on the bunny hill, and soon graduated to more advanced runs.

By 1980, the five of us had left home, and the ministry took Mom and Dad to Mammoth Lakes. Mom's birthday treat was often a day on the slopes at Mammoth Mountain. The tradition continued until Dad could no longer ski.

This was Mom's first birthday since Dad's passing last October. To complete the suprise, we invited Mom's sister to join us. And our sister who lives on the East Coast caught the Red Eye to join us.

I prepared the meatballs Sunday evening and cooled them in the refrigerator. After making a pot of soup Tuesday evening, an ice water bath quickly cooked the soup in the pot. This stopped further cooking and made sure that I delivered a safe pot of soup to the family. I slowly heated the soup over a Coleman stove at the resort (pictured above).


This recipe prepares 24 servings, or 1-1/2 gallons of soup and 60 to 66 meatballs. Cut the recipe in half to serve 12.

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1-1/2 pounds Italian sausage
1-1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
2 teaspoons dried basil

3 quarts chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch fresh spinach, stems removed and washed
2 medium zucchini, sliced
6 ounces orzo
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
2 teaspoons dried basil

Combine beef, pork, eggs, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Add more bread crumbs if needed to form balls that hold their shape. Shape meat mixture into 1-inch balls with a 1-ounce ladle or no. 30 disher. Bake in 350° F. oven 18-20 minutes to medium doneness, until not pink in center and juices show no pink color.

Combine broth, onions, carrots, potatoes, green bell peppers and tomatoes in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Do not overcook vegetables as they remain firm.

Add beans, spinach, zucchini, orzo and herbs to pot. Return to a boil, reduce heat and gently simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the orzo is done. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, place 3 meatballs in a bowl. Ladle 1-cup hot soup over meatballs. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese or pesto if desired.

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