Italian wedding soup.

January 8, 2014 § 1 Comment

Folks, I just have one more meatball-related recipe for you – Italian wedding soup!

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When I was a kid, I thought this was a soup that Italian people ate at weddings.  Seems logical, right?  Well I just Googled wedding soup and learned that “wedding soup” actually means “married soup”—referring to the marrying of the flavors of green vegetables and meat.  Now you know.

Typically, this soup contains some sort of green leafy vegetable, such as escarole or spinach or curly endive, and meat – usually a small meatball made of beef and pork, cooked in a chicken broth.

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Chances are, you’ve had this soup before.  You’ve probably had several varieties.  For this soup, I used my own Italian meatball recipe.  I rolled smaller meatballs with this soup in mind, but you could totally cut larger meatballs in half or quarters.  Otherwise, I loosely followed Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe, with some minor changes and some additions to make the soup more hearty.  This girl needs sustenance!

A quick note:  You can really play with the ingredients of this soup.  Add as many meatballs or as much shredded chicken or as much pasta as you like, etc.  You get the idea!

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Italian Wedding Soup

What you need:

  • 20  small Italian meatballs, or several large meatballs cut into small pieces
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups of small pasta shells
  • 1 pound spinach, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

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What to do:

If your meatballs are not already prepared, make them! Otherwise, make sure you have the cooked meatballs ready to go.  If using meatballs that were previously frozen, I suggest defrosting them before adding to the soup.  Also cook and shred your chicken breast.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Season the broth with the dried basil, salt, ground black pepper, and dried oregano, or an Italian seasoning blend of your choice.  Add 2 cups of small shells to the pasta and boil for 8 minutes, until pasta is tender.  Now add the meatballs and the chopped spinach to the broth.  Cook for 5 minutes, then lower the soup to a simmer.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and the Parmesan cheese until blended.  Slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the soup, while continuously stirring the soup in a circular motion.  By stirring gently, you will form thin strands of egg in the broth.  This should take about 1-2 minutes.  Add the shredded chicken and stir well. Taste the soup, and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in bowls topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Note:  Don’t be alarmed if your meatballs crumble while simmering.  Mine became so tender that they broke apart easily while I stirred the soup.  This is a good thing!

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baked pasta with Italian sausage, kale, and red pepper.

December 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have been excited to share this dish!  Say hello to my new favorite recipe:

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I first made this recipe at 9pm on a weeknight.  That type of spontaneous cooking never really works out too well for me—suddenly I’m exhausted, mid-way through a recipe, and my kitchen is a mess.  But, this pasta bake came together really quickly and was delicious!  I have re-made it several times since then, and I can already tell it will become a staple recipe in my house.  Also, it’s hearty and has a spicy kick, which means it’s definitely boyfriend approved!  Leftovers keep well in the fridge up to a week and reheat nicely for lunches at work.

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I find I particularly love kale—a super food!—when it’s cooked into a creamy, spicy pasta bake with browned Italian sausage.  We have to get our greens in somehow!

Plus this dish is creamy and decadent, without actually involving any cream or much butter.  Healthy comfort food is where it’s at.

Note: A key ingredient for this recipe is chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  These peppers can be found in the Mexican section of the grocery store, in a small can.

peppers

I am a wimp when it comes to spice, but found that the called for two peppers in sauce provided just enough heat without being overwhelming.  If you are worried about the spice, use one pepper instead of two.  Taste the sauce first and if you want it to be more spicy, add another pepper.

Adapted from Bev Cooks

What you need:

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1 box whole grain elbow macaroni (used 13.25 oz. box of Barilla)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 and ½ cups milk (used skim)
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 8 oz. low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

You will want to use your largest skillet for this recipe.  Heat the skillet over medium.  Add your Italian sausage and cook until browned.  Remove sausage from skillet and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Return sausage to skillet and add the diced red pepper and chopped kale.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Kale will begin to wilt.  Sprinkle with small amount of sea salt.

While the sausage, kale, and red pepper mix is sautéing, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook per package instructions.

Once pasta is cooked and drained, add the pasta to the sausage, kale, and red pepper mixture.  Toss to combine well.

Let the mixture sit on low heat while you prepare your spicy sauce.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Once butter is melted, add the flour.  Whisk for several minutes, until the flour is completely worked into the butter.  Add the milk and continue to whisk until sauce takes on a creamy consistency—approximately 5 minutes.

Transfer the sauce into a blender.  Add one or two chipotle peppers (do not rinse; keep sauce on the peppers) and pulse.  Now is the time to taste the sauce and decide whether you want it to be more spicy.  If so, add another pepper and continue to blend.

Pour the cream sauce over the pasta, sausage, kale, and red pepper mixture, and toss to combine.

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Transfer the pasta mixture into a baking dish.  I used a 9 by 13 glass dish.  Cover the pasta with the shredded mozzarella.

Bake the pasta for 30 minutes uncovered; cheese should be browning.

Let pasta sit for several minutes before serving.

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So, so yummy.

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butternut squash macaroni and cheese.

October 23, 2013 § 2 Comments

Two perfect butternut squash had been sitting on my kitchen counter for several weeks.  Finally, on Sunday, I decided to make the first butternut squash recipe of the fall season, something I’ve never tried before: butternut squash macaroni & cheese.  This recipe is good comfort food, but also fairly good for you–no heavy cream.  The sweet flavor of the squash really steals the show.

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If you’ve never peeled and chopped a butternut squash before, lemme just say this:  It’s some serious business.  Consider it your arm workout of the day.

Recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny

What you need:

  • 3 heaping cups, cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 and ¼ C lower sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ C fat-free milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 C shredded Gruyere cheese (very similar to Swiss)
  • 1 C grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 box of elbow noodle pasta
  • ½ C panko breadcrumbs

What to do:

Begin by peeling your butternut squash.  I suggest slicing off the ends, holding the squash against your chest, and peeling away from you.  Slice the squash in half, long ways, and scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh.  Then, chop the squash into 1-inch cubes.

Bring your chicken broth and milk to a boil in a medium pan.  Add the cubed butternut squash and minced garlic, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 35 minutes—the squash should be very tender.

[While your squash is simmering, cook your elbow noodles per the package instructions.  Drain and set aside.]

After the squash mixture is done simmering, add two tablespoons of Greek yogurt, plus salt and pepper.   Now it’s time to blend!  I chose to pour the mix into a large bowl and use my immersion blender.  You could also pour the mixture directly into a blender.  After you’re done blending, fold in your cheese.  Then, fold in your cooked noodles.

It should look like something like this:

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I know, amazing right?  I may have had a few spoonfuls…

Pour the macaroni into a greased baking pan.  Sprinkle the Panko bread crumbs on top.   Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.  If you like, broil for 1-2 minutes on low to brown the bread crumbs.

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Serve it up with some extra grated cheese on top.  Because why not…

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This is particularly yummy right out of the oven–all hot and gooey–but the leftovers have been heating up well for my lunches this week!

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