don't let it's looks fool you. while this soup isn't much of a looker, it's packed with flavor. the meatballs are spiced really well and the soup is a pretty basic homemade tomato soup - sweetened up a touch with a bit of carrot and celery added. it's a really great winter soup.
and don't let the time fool you. sure, it took me a good 45 minutes to make it. but there's a 20 minute chunk of time right in the middle where the soup is simmering - which means you can wrap presents, watch a half an hour DVRd show, or just plain relax for that matter.
tomato & meatball soup
adapted from cook's illustrated soups & stews 2011
45min-1hr hour, serves 4
if you are a big fan of meatballs, i suggest making double. i made the original amount and wished i had doubled it.
for the meatballs:
8 ounces meatloaf mix (blend of ground beef, veal, and pork)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons whole milk
for the soup:
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry ditalini or orzo pasta
- form the meatballs. in a large bowl, mix the meatloaf mix, parmesan, basil, garlic, oregano, and bread crumbs with your hands. add about a tablespoon of milk and mix well. if the mixture is still pretty dry, add the remaining tablespoon of milk. line a small tray with wax or parchment paper (i used the tray from my toaster oven). form about 16 meatballs, about two teaspoons each, of the mixture and place on the tray. refrigerate the meatballs for about 30 minutes until firm.
- while the meatballs chill, prep the vegetables for the soup. when your vegetables are ready, heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. coat the bottom with olive oil and add the onion, carrot and celery. season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft, about eight minutes. add the garlic and cook until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. stir in the broth and diced tomatoes with the juice and bring to a simmer. cover and cook about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender.
- using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. alternatively, if you don't have an immersion blender, blend the soup in batches in a blender & return the soup to the pot. bring the soup back up to a simmer.
- stir in the pasta and gently add the meatballs, one at a time, and simmer uncovered about fifteen minutes, or until the pasta is tender and the meatballs are cooked through. season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with more freshly grated parmesan and crusty bread.