Thursday, January 10, 2013

warms the soul

ever had a day where you don't even want to get dressed. you know the kind i'm talking about, it's cold, rainy and nothing sounds better than your pj's, a fire and snuggling with your favorite kiddos. to me rain and soup go together like peanut butter and jelly. it's also days like this that cooking an elaborate meal is not something i want to do either. so one pot dishes like soup are great.
 i learned this recipe from my aunt and it always reminds me of her when i make it. i grew up spending summers on the east coast and being the youngest cousin of 22 i was often left behind with my aunts and uncles, and grandparents and a few of the other younger cousins while everyone went off for the day. we usually spent the beginning of july there which is rarely rainy, so i guess that's why it sticks out in my memory so much. my aunt and uncle lived above my grandparents at the time and since it was raining my cousins and i were playing up and down the stairs and everywhere else between the two apartments driving everyone crazy,  so in order to bring  piece to the chaos she enlisted the 4 of us kids into helping her in the kitchen. we were put to work making meatballs for this fabulous soup. i have not included a recipe for meatballs here, but i will post that recipe soon.
 every good italian girl is taught when making gravy, meatballs and sausage to always make double and keep the leftovers in the freezer for a rainy day. that day we must have made meatballs for 10 rainy days!!! figure 4 kids were pretty cheap labor for my aunt and for us it was like playing with play dough. 
i learned more than a meatball and soup recipe that day. i learned how cooking, traditions and family can make any day special, any kid a great cook and how to keep squirrelly kids from sending you to the funny farm. i have since enlisted my children on several occasions when i need some peace from the fighting and stir craziness of rainy days or long summer days.
maybe a few of you out there are good italian girls and have some frozen meatballs stashed away for a rainy day, but for those of you who don't, never fear a bag from your local grocery store will work just fine. i will even confess to using a bag or two of those every now and then. let's just keep that part a secret, i don't want to tarnish my good italian girl reputation.  i prefer trader joe's if i need a quick go to bag.
this soup has several names, italian wedding soup, meatball soup and meatball stew. whatever you want to call it, i call it home.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4-1/2 c white wine
1 quart of chix stock
water as needed
1 can of cannelloni beans, drained
16 small meat balls ( i make my own, but feel free to use any kind of your choice)
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp each dried basil, oregano, parsley ( you can use fresh, i didn't have any on hand. double amount)
a little creative license

in a large pot over medium heat add olive oil to heat and  saute onions, carrots, and celery, about 3-5 mins until they start to get soft. add garlic and saute 1 min, add tomato paste and cook for another 1-2 mins. deglaze pan with white white, scraping all the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan. at this time feel free to pour yourself a glass of that wine to enjoy while cooking. i also learned this from my aunt. i'm pretty sure that also helps in keeping your sanity. add chicken stock, beans and meatballs. if there is not enough liquid for your taste or to cover meatballs add water to liking. season with herbs and worcestshire sauce and salt & pepper to taste. simmer at least 1/2 hour covered. i like to add crushed red pepper to taste, but if it's not for you, serve it on the side.
 here is when your creative license comes in. you can add whatever veggies you like to this or just leave as is. i always add whatever i have available and most always spinach or cooked veggies at the very end of the simmering cycle. if you add uncooked veggies such as green beans, add them during the simmering process to ensure they are tender.
i serve this with garlic bread, or for a little something extra garlic cheese toast and while your at it, it's never a bad idea to sprinkle some of that cheese on you bowl of soup. of course that is entirely up to you ;-)

the only thing i will ask you now is to go and create a little memory and tradition of your own. there is also nothing better than using that memory/recipe to make you feel better when life has gotten the better of you and you need to pick yourself up. so no need for a rainy day.

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