Right now, the house is silent. Little ones are dreaming. Shirts are crisply ironed and hanging, ready for early risers. Snacks are packed. Everything has been labeled.
Tomorrow is the first day of school.
I have bid farewell to the laid-back summer days, and have begun to focus on the year ahead for my little ones. With my oldest entering 3rd grade and my baby starting Kindergarten (sob!), it is time for me to start thinking of notes to sign and lunches to pack. Sandwiches are to be expected, of course, but my daughter can only eat so many sandwiches.
What she really loves is a warm and comforting lunch. So when I can, I pack her favorites: dumplings, pasta, and soup. She loves soup. And her favorite, even as a toddler, is Italian Wedding Soup.
Mama, can we have ‘Meatball Soup?’ She has been asking for quite a while. She was actually referring to the one you can find in a can. You see, many years ago, when I was not as particular, I would buy canned soup, and while I still admit that the canned Italian Meatball Soup we used to buy is tasty, I can no longer bring myself to buy it. One look at the label and I am mortified at the preservatives and sodium. I can do better.
So I made a large batch the other day. I hastily rolled my meatballs.
Please don’t mind my messy board. This is what it looks like when I’m in a rush. A little extra parsley and garlic stuck to the board won’t hurt anyone.
I expected my daughter, who is turning out to be my harshest critic, to refuse the soup. After all, the meatballs were not as petite and uniformly formed. The pasta were not the teeny acini di pepe that she expects – in fact, I found myself using a combination of orzo and vegetable pastas I found in my cupboard as I was too pressed for time to return to the store for the perfect pasta. But to my relief, she wholeheartedly approved.
She wants it for lunch tomorrow.
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- 1 small onion, grated
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 8 ounces ground beef
- 8 ounces ground pork
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 cup minced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1 cup diced celery (3 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 10 cups chicken stock (ideally homemade)
- 1 cup small pasta such as acini di pepe (or substitute tubetini, stars, orzo)
- 8-12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
- salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium bowl, stir the onion, parsley, egg, garlic, salt and bread crumbs together. Add the Parmesan cheese, ground meat and pepper and combine, using your hands or a fork. Using about a heaping teaspoon portion, roll meatballs; this will yield about 40 meatballs. Set aside on a baking sheet. This can be done in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots and celery and saute until the onion is transparent, about 7 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and meatballs, return to a boil, and cook until the pasta is cooked al dente. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and simmer for a couple of minutes more, until the spinach is just wilted but still a vibrant green.
Ladle into bowls and serve with a little extra grated Parmesan cheese.