Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Meatball and Orzo Soup

You may be familiar with the situation: Ohmygosh, it's six o'clock, and I have to have supper on the table! What do I do now? Aviva Goldfarb has your back, she's been there. She is a cook, author, and founder of the website The Six O'Clock Scramble, a weekly meal planning system. I was sent a copy of her latest book, written in cooperation with the American Diabetes Association. The Six O'Clock Scramble Meal Planner: A Year of Quick, Delicious Meals to Help You Prevent and Manage Diabetes presents 32 weekly menu plans, complete with main dishes and sides, with a grocery list for each week. All the recipes are diabetes-friendly, whether you're managing the disease or trying to prevent it.

Before I get to the recipe, I recognize I'm not one of the author's targeted audience. I'm not the parent and resident cook of a busy family - hubby and I are retirees, so I have plenty of time, when I choose to spend it. I like a quick, easy supper just as much as anybody else, though. So I chose Meatball and Orzo Soup, and have made it twice now. The first time, I followed the recipe, and the second time, I tweaked it to my own taste. Here's how it went:

Meatball and Orzo Soup (adapted from Aviva Goldfarb)
by Maurita Plouff blogging at Get the Good Stuff!
Makes about 3 quarts

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 cup) I have used white or yellow onion, can't tell a difference
2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock I used homemade chicken stock
1 cup water
15 ounces no-salt-added petite-diced tomatoes, with their liquid
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning blend
1/2 cup orzo or ditalini noodles I did not have whole wheat pasta, used regular orzo
12 ounces precooked meatless mini meatballs (often sold frozen), or use beef or turkey meatballs I couldn't find 12-ounce packages of meatballs, so I used 1 lb Italian meatballs from Trader Joe's. I thawed them in the microwave and then cut them in half.
3 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped I used all of a bunch - may have been up to 41/2 cups chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic; sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, water, and tomatoes; cover and bring to a boil. Add the Italian seasoning blend, the orzo and the meatballs (if they are large, cut them in half or quarters) and stir frequently for a minute or two, so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the spinach and let it wilt.

The author recommends that you serve immediately, seasoned with salt and pepper as desired. I
completely disagree. While this soup tastes good right when it's made per instructions, it's SO MUCH BETTER the next day or even the day after, when the flavors have had time to meld. My advice is to put this soup together when you're making some other day's supper - and then just stick it in the refrigerator for tomorrow. You'll thank me for this; you'll have an amazingly wonderful soup and all you have to do is heat and eat. If the pasta has thickened the soup too much, which it can do, just add some V8 or tomato juice to bring it back to your ideal soup-like texture.

We also loved the soup garnished with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.

It's wonderful to have a whole book of quick (and easy) recipes. I've found them to be diverse and appealing, and am especially looking forward to trying:

- farfalle with artichoke hearts, baby spinach, and lemon ricotta
- zucchini, white bean, and tomato gratin
- chicken marsala with mushrooms & garlic

While I don't live with the six o'clock scramble day in and day out, I'm glad to know I've a resource to turn to.

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