approx. 1 lb. of lean ground beef, made very small and cooked
4 quarts good chicken broth (Note #2)
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped OR 2 tsp dried basil
2 bay leaves (Note #3)
black pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt to taste
10 oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed (Note #4)
8 oz. orzo or other tiny pasta (Note #5)
Put the broth on to boil while you prepare the veggies. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, seasonings and lemon juice, but leave the salt for later. Bring to a full rolling boil, then turn down the heat and cook until the carrots are very tender.
Add salt to taste. Squeeze the thawed spinach gently to remove excess liquid, and add with the pasta. Bring back to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add the meatballs and simmer gently until the pasta is well done and the meatballs are hot. Extra cooking at a low simmer only improves this dish.
Serve with crusty bread, and, if you like, a sprinkle of good parmesan cheese. Mangia!
Note #1: Use our Easy Meatballs recipe or your favorite one. I highly recommend cooking them in the oven, primarily because they are healthier than fried ones, and drier, which means they have less chance of falling apart in the soup or sauce. For extra flavor, add 2 teaspoons of dried basil. Do not use chopped veggies in your meatballs for soup; it causes them to fall apart. And mix well before you form the little morsels.
Note #2: Use fresh, canned or reconstituted chicken broth. If you make your own, you can include a chicken breast, then cut it into small cubes and add with the meatballs. Do not use bouillon cubes; the flavor's not right and it's too salty. often have only two or three quarts of chicken broth, and add water to make the rest, adding enough Watkins Chicken Soup concentrate to reconstitute the water added and until the flavor is right.
Note #3: If you made your own chicken broth with bay leaves, you may wish to reduce the bay leaves to 1.
Note #4: Feel free to substitute fresh spinach, kale, escarole, bok choy or other greens. Endive is good too, but a little stronger, as are collards which you should only use if your family really likes them.
Note #5: Orzo or riso are tiny pasta, like grains of rice or barley. Alphabet pasta is cute for children. The Hispanic supermarket where I usually shop rarely has orzo, so I buy their popular angel hair pasta and beat the heck out of the packaged fine noodles with a pestle or meat tenderizer until it's broken into tiny pieces. You could do this to vermicelli, too. Orzo is easier. Or add gluten-free fine noodles, broken into small pieces.