Sunday, May 24, 2015

Italian Wedding Soup with Veggie Balls

Yes, this is an Italian wedding soup with veggie balls, and no, I'm not sorry about that.  The traditional Italian wedding soup is packed with meatballs - depending on the recipe you're using, either chicken, pork or beef.  No thanks.  The soup usually also has some sort of greens like kale or spinach, pasta like orzo, and carrot.  Those things sound good.  Why ruin it with meat!?  Hence I was excited to see this recipe from Annie's Eats with veggie balls.  Plus she has this crazy method for making your own quick veggie broth by finely chopping up tons of vegetables (this is called a pestata) and simmering them in water and herbs.  Plus, veggie balls.

To be honest, this took hours and by the time it was ready for dinner, we were starving.  May I suggest this soup be made on a weekend? Also I think I used every utensil, pan and machine in the whole kitchen.  So be ready to clean while you work or you might be washing up until midnight. And frankly, if I am to be even more honest, may I suggest that you use a carton of veggie broth and save yourself the time of the aforementioned crazy method?   Skip the peseta. I didn't think it was better than a carton; it didn't have enough flavor for me.

The star of this recipe is obviously the veggie balls.  They're mostly made of eggplant, with parsley to make them taste fresh, garlic and parmesan to spice them up, and panko all around the outside to give them a slight crunch.  They get pan fried till they are browned to perfection.  Then they get plonked into the soup, which has been filled with tortellini, zucchini, kale, and swiss chard.

Again, I thought the broth wasn't the best that it could be, but everything else was fabulous.  I'd definitely make those veggie balls again.  And I think we all know that tortellinis are awesome.  This was a great soup for reheating, also.  I was a little worried about putting the veggie balls into my lunch container because I worried about them getting mushy, but they didn't really, so it made for a perfect lunch.  I know it's getting warm and you might not be thinking of soup, but let's be honest, last night you slept in sweatpants and you're currently wearing a fleece.  Or maybe that's just me.  Anyway, there's still time to make soup before it gets super hot and you look crazy.


Italian wedding soup with veggie balls
from Annie's Eats
yield 8 - 10 servings

for the soup:
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 ounces fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 1/2 quarts cold water
1 bunch swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
1 zucchini, diced
2 parmesan rinds
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
18 - 20 ounces cheese tortellini
for veggie balls:
1 large eggplant, unpeeled
1 cup panko, plus more for coating veggie balls
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
extra virgin olive oil for cooking (I used vegetable oil)


1) In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and basil.  Pulse until the entire mixture is very finely chopped and almost forms a paste (known as a pestata).  Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven over high heat and add the pestata into the pot.  Cook until the mixture has released most of its liquid and is beginning to dry out a bit, about 5 - 7 minutes.  Add the water to the pot gradually, scraping and browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you do so.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes.

2) Stir in the chard, kale, zucchini, parmesan rinds and salt.  Cook covered for 25 minutes and then uncovered for 20 minutes more.  Add the tortellini during the last 10 minutes or so of cooking (according to package directions so they will just be cooked when the soup is finished).

3) While the soup is simmering, make the veggie balls.  Chop the eggplant into 1-inch cubes.  Bring a medium to large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the eggplant to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  Drain the eggplant in a colander and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible.  Transfer to a cutting board and finely chop the cooked eggplant, then transfer to a medium bowl.

4) Into the bowl with the eggplant, add the panko, parmesan, parsley and garlic.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add in the egg.  Stir until evenly combined, then form the mixture into 1-to-1 1/2-inch balls.  Coat each ball in panko.  Add a generous amount of oil to a heavy skillet (about 1/4 cup) and heat over medium-high heat.  When the pan and oil are very well heated, add the veggie balls in an even layer.  Turn the balls gently as they cook until all sides are browned.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  When the soup is finished cooking, add a few veggie balls to each serving.

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