Wednesday, March 6, 2013

All Souped Up

Meatball Minestrone Soup served with cheesy bread and topped with Parmesan cheese.
There is nothing like soup.
It is by nature eccentric:
No two are ever alike, unless of course,
you get your soup from a can.
Laurie Colwin, Author of "Home Cooking"

There's nothing wrong with soup from a can. I am definitely not a food snob, and prepared soups offer tons of convenience and versatility. This recipe actually uses a can of tomato soup to help thicken the final finished product. I am not averse to using a can of cream of chicken soup or cream of celery soup in a casserole or some other recipe either.

But I do love making homemade soups, especially when there's still some snow on the ground. OK, let's be real. I don't need snow on the ground to like soup because I'm a fan year 'round. And even though the warmer temperatures this week will finally (FINALLY) allow me to get my car out of the driveway today after the Blizzard of Oz, I still am happy to warm up leftovers of this soup.

For convenience, you can use pre-packaged, prepared meatballs from the freezer case. But I've also given you a recipe link to make your own. The meatball recipe can be used for everything from BBQ Meatballs to meatball subs.

 Meatball Minestrone Soup
3 (14.5 oz.) cans Italian style stewed or diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (10 oz.) can tomato soup
4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. basil, dried
1/2 tsp. oregano, dried
1/2 tsp. thyme, dried
1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) frozen meatballs (prepared or homemade, see below), fully cooked
4 oz. (About 2 cups dry) ditalini pasta
Grated or shaved Parmesan cheese

Into a large stockpot, combine tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato soup and beef broth. (You can use canned/boxed broth or you can dissolve 4 teaspoons of beef soup base into 4 cups hot water.) Add chopped carrots and onions. Add spices. Add drained and rinsed beans. Add 6 cups of frozen, full-cooked small meatballs. (If you are purchasing small meatballs from the freezer case, Italian meatballs would be a good choice for this soup.) Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and add the 2 cups of ditalini pasta (or substitute another small pasta), stirring well. Simmer, and stir every so often to keep the pasta from sticking. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the pasta is tender, yet still firm (not mushy). If you prefer your soup with more liquid, add additional beef broth or tomato juice until the consistency is the way you like.

Notes: I got the original recipe from Jamie Cooks It Up, a recipe blog. Hers is a crock pot version, which would be good on a busy day. I have changed some of the seasoning amounts (which are reflected in the recipe I've given you here), and I made my own meatballs. Her soup uses green beans, which is probably more like a traditional minestrone, but I substituted cannellini beans. (I'm not a fan of green beans in soup, but, by all means, use them if you prefer. They would add some additional color.) She also cooks her pasta separately, which makes sense for a crockpot version.

Speaking of soup with pasta:  This recipe makes a lot of soup. Unless you're serving it for a football team or a church soup supper, you'll likely have leftovers. As with any soup that has pasta, the pasta will absorb more of your soup liquid as it cools and hangs out in the fridge or freezer. You will need to add some additional tomato juice, beef broth or plain water when you reheat the soup.

I served the soup with slices of a rustic French-style bread, which I sprinkled with cheese and broiled until bubbly and nicely browned.

The Meatballs

I have home-grown beef in my freezer. While it would be handy to just pull neatly packaged, prepared meatballs from the freezer for a quick meal or soup, I can have a homemade version with just a little advance planning and so can you. It's a lot more economical and is tasty, too!

My meatball recipe uses 3 pounds of hamburger. If I'm making BBQ Meatballs for a large group or a potluck dinner, I will use an ice cream scoop and shape all of it into meal-sized meatballs.

But, if I'm just making meatballs for home, I will shape part of them into larger meatballs for BBQ or smothered meatballs.
I then shape the rest into smaller versions using a cookie scoop. I then put those in the freezer to use for later meals. I usually leave those smaller meatballs plain so that I can add the sauce of my choice when I prepare them.
I use the smaller version of the meatballs to make Italian Meatball Subs.
For this minestrone soup, I pulled a pan of the frozen meatballs from the freezer and baked them until they were done. I then added the cooked meatballs to the soup. You don't want to add raw meatballs to the soup: For one, they won't stay together. Secondly, you don't want raw meat in the soup just in case it wouldn't get thoroughly cooked.

For this soup, I probably used half of the meatballs that the meatball recipe makes - or about 1 1/2 pounds of meatballs.

Today, I'm linking to Wichita blogger Ashley's What's In Your Kitchen Wednesday. You'll want to visit her blog to see what other bloggers are making in their kitchens. 'Tis the season for St. Patrick's Day snacks and lots more!


  1. Wowzers! I know this would be a hit with both guys in my house. This looks like a great recipe; thanks so much for sharing it!

    1. Even our 14-month-old granddaughter loved it! Thanks for hosting the link party, Ashley!