RECIPES OF THE WEEK FROM OUR CULINARY DIRECTOR GAIL BLAKELY!
This spring minestrone is adapted from Epicurious.com. One of the reviewers says “it’s so good I make it every week!”. I agree. It’s very simple and very, very delicious. The original recipe calls for 6 ounces of ground chicken (try to get dark meat, if possible), but I find that the meatballs are so good that I have doubled the amount—they tend to disappear before being added to the soup if you are not careful.
The pasta I like to use is called Fregola, and it’s available in specialty shops; it’s also known as Sardinian couscous. I get mine at Slice of Italy in Falmouth. If you can get some, it really adds a nice dimension to the soup, as evidenced by the photograph. If you wish, you can substitute Israeli couscous, or another small pasta such as orzo. Like many soups, this improves with time, so try to make it in the morning and serve it later in the day. With some crusty ciabatta bread, it may become one of your favorite spring dinners!
SPRING MINESTRONE WITH TINY MEATBALLS
- 12 to 16 oz ground chicken
- 1 to 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (or Panko)
- 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, plus 3 more for soup (and additional for garnish, if desired)
- 6 garlic cloves, 4 minced, 2 thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 2 large eggs, whisked to blend
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 2 to 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4" rounds
- 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 3/4 cup fregola or other small pasta such as orzo or ditalini (or Israeli couscous)
- 1 cup peeled carrots sliced into ½-inch rounds
- 1 to 2 cups (packed) baby spinach
- Chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
- In a bowl, whisk the eggs with 6 tbsp Parmesan, 4 minced garlic cloves, the chives, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper to taste
- Add the chicken and mix to combine. Shape into small (1/2 to 3/4-inch diameter) meatballs (makes a lot!).
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a soup pot over medium heat; cook meatballs until golden all over, about 3 minutes (they will finish cooking in soup). Add more oil and continue to sauté the meatballs until all are done; transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add leek to pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil.
- Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes.
- Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente, carrots are tender, and meatballs are cooked through, about 3 minutes.
- Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan; stir until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted.
- Season with salt and pepper and ladle soup into bowls; serve hot, garnished with more Parmesan and the parsley.