I've found this to be a great weeknight dish for when dinner time is sneaking up on me and I don't have time (or want to) go to the grocery store. Don't tell anyone, but I actually use frozen Italian meatballs from Costco! The kids like it and I'm able to make substitutions to the recipe when needed…and did I forget to mention it's pretty tasty?
Here's how I made last night's version (photo above):
- Chopped 1/2 sweet onion (rough cup)
- Chopped baby carrots (whole carrot's okay, too) — about a cup
- Chopped red pepper
- Optional: 1-2 stalks chopped celery (I didn't have any celery last night…but I've used it previously. I'm really not missing it in the soup).
Saute the above ingredients in a few swirls of EVOO until the onion is soft. Then add:
- 3-4 cloves chopped garlic
Saute for about 2 minutes more–don't let garlic burn. Add:
- 6-7 cups low sodium chicken broth (you can add 1-2 cups of water, to dilute broth–I just do broth).
- 1 can diced tomatoes. I like Muir Glen w/Italian herbs. (I've made this soup without the tomoates if they were sadly missing from my pantry).
Bring to a boil. Add:
- Pasta. I used small shells–about a 1/2 pound.
- Optional: 2 cans of drained & rinsed beans, such as Great Northern. (My son hates beans…so…)
- Another possible substitution: rice.
While pasta is cooking in broth (or while your beans and broth are simmering) for about 15 minutes, heat olive oil in a non-stick pan and brown:
- 20-30 frozen meatballs (do not thaw).
Add meatballs to the soup mixture once the pasta is cooked. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper–be careful not to add too much salt. I've found the soup to be "naturally" salty just from the meatballs and topping it with cheese (see the last step). Taking the salt out is pretty tough if it's overdone. Add:
- Baby arugula or baby spinach. (Fresh–salad ready is quick and easy to use). I sometimes allow the kids to dish up first if the sight of wilty (yummy) greens in their soup repulses them. Arugula and spinach will wilt to nothing so you can add quite a bit (6 oz). Cook for a few minutes until the greens are soft.
Top the soup off with fresh grated Parmesan or swiss…what every you have on hand.
Enjoy! I actually had this soup for lunch today minus meatballs (the kids cleaned those up) and it's still very enjoyable.