Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter's Back . . . For Now : Let's Warm Up With Some Spaghetti Soup

What to have cooking on the inside . . . 

when this is going on, on the outside.

With all the crazy weather going on around the country this past week, I have seen lots of friends on Facebook talk about how wild the weather is in their area. I hate to tell everyone, the weather is not just crazy where you live, it is crazy everywhere. Be it Texas, Colorado, Kansas or Nottingham, England, the weather is unpredictable all over the world, especially during the winter.

Where I usually make a mistake is thinking that the good weather days are typical winter days. No, those are flukes, the snowy, cold days are typical winter days and that's what we should expect and not act surprised when we are hit with an ice storm.  Here in Colorado we have a few beautiful days in the middle of January and I settle in, then complain about the cold and snow, in January, in Colorado.

Well, we had a few days of sunshine in the high 50's earlier in the week, and now we have snow on the ground and more moving in.  I've decided to try something new this time and settle in and enjoy the snow. I've promised myself that this time I'm going to watch the snowflakes fall gently to the ground while sipping an Irish coffee under a blanket while watching a good movie.  I'm also going to put a pot of soup on to bubble away my winter blues, and it just so happens that I have the perfect recipe in mind, spaghetti soup.

This recipe for spaghetti soup is basically a lighter version of my family's favorite meal of all time, spaghetti and meatballs. The slightly thick tomato broth is tangy and a little bit cheesy from the Parmesan that flavors the meatballs. This soup is both substantial and satisfying and just perfect for a cold winter day.  All you need is a loaf of crusty bread, a roaring fire, and maybe a little Irish whiskey for your coffee, and you are all set.

Spaghetti Soup

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound ground turkey (ground beef and/or ground pork can be used as well)
1 slice of stale sandwich bread, crumbled into breadcrumbs (about 2/3 cup)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped and divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 slightly heaping tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth (plus a little more if you like it thinner)
Splash of white or red wine (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 large clove garlic, crushed
5 ounces dried thin spaghetti, broken into thirds

Pour flour out onto a plate; set aside until ready to use.

Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 of the onion, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese and beaten egg. Gently mix together being careful not to overwork the meat which will make it tough. Measure out rounded tablespoons of the meat mixture. Roll between your palms to form meatballs. Roll the meatballs in the flour; set aside. This recipe makes approximately 18 meatballs.

Place vegetable oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet. Heat over medium high heat until the oil is hot and simmering. Place meatballs in the pan with the hot oil and brown on all sides. When they are golden brown and cooked through, transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon; set aside.

In a large stockpot, pour in the tomatoes, the remaining onion, chicken broth, wine, sugar, Italian seasoning and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes check the sauce to make sure that the onion is tender.  Gently add the meatballs, replace the cover and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.

*While the sauce is cooking, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.

To serve, divide the spaghetti equally between 4 - 6 bowls. Top the spaghetti with equal amounts of the soup and meatballs. Serve piping hot with grated Parmesan cheese and crush red pepper.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.

*I cook my spaghetti separately because I don't like it to get too soft sitting in the sauce if there are any leftovers. If you prefer, the spaghetti can be cooked in the sauce, but I would advise adding an extra cup of chicken broth to make up for what the spaghetti will absorb and to counteract the thickening caused by the pasta starch. I would add it to the sauce shortly before the meatballs are added and cook until tender.

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