Thursday, August 23, 2012

A New Italian Wedding

I've always been a soup lover-I could probably live on it for the rest of my life and be quite content.
I'll admit, sometimes in the middle of the summer it does feel a little too warm for soup, but I can't seem to go very long without making some anyway. The second I see a hint of a thunderstorm headed our way, or the first signs of autumn, I start thinking about all the soup recipes I want to try.

A lot of the time though, soup is a way for me to cook a seemingly well rounded meal even if I desperately need to go grocery shopping and feel like we hardly have anything in the house to cook with.
There are some frozen, and dry pantry staples that I almost always have stocked that often end up in a soup of some sort.
Last week I made this soup for our family and it went over really well, even with the little miss. We were all pretty surprised by how closely it tasted to the Italian Wedding soup from East Side Mario's. (one of our favorite restaurants.)

The ingredients are unconventional, but they work surprisingly well in this traditional soup.
And the best part is that it cooks up really fast, without much work at all.
Of course you could make this with ground pork or ground beef, but the point of this was total convenience, using common freezer ingredients, and NOT having to thaw ground meat, break out the bread crumbs and roll out a bunch of little meatballs.

All you need is:
Chicken stock (or water and bouillon powder)
6 frozen hamburger patties (plain, not the grilled, smokey flavoured kind. Can even be turkey, or veggie burgers)
2 blocks of frozen spinach (about 4 cups of chopped spinach, fresh, frozen or canned.)
1 chopped onion (optional) 
Tiny pasta, like orzo or Acini de Pepe (I've even done this with brown rice.)
Dried basil and garlic powder and black pepper for seasoning
Lemon juice or vinegar
Parmesan cheese for garnish

I know, the hamburger patty thing seems really weird, but hear me out.
A while back, my husband and I hit up a sale at a local gourmet grocery store and bought frozen hamburgers, only $5 for 20. Twenty! and with the prices of ground beef right now, that's a steal.
We bought 4 bags to feed to the deep freezer, thinking that they'd be great in a pinch, and we were planning several bbqs this summer.

Fast forward a couple of months...I'm trying to figure out what to make for dinner one night. I realized that we had everything to make chili but beef, turkey, (ground meat of any kind.)
I often even use textured vegetable protein (aka TVP)  in chili, but we were out of that as well.

Then I had a flash back to my college days when I remembered scavenging my freezer and using a veggie burger patty to make a two serving pan of vegetarian chili. I remembered the bags of frozen hamburgers in our basement freezer and grabbed some.
It worked so well in the chili that I used it the next week in pasta sauce, and then in soups etc.

Here's how it works:

Take the 6 frozen beef, turkey or veggie patties, and put them in your pan. Add about a 2 quarts of stock (or water if you're going to do the bouillon method.) Boil those suckers over medium heat until they're cooked through, and even a little overcooked.
Use a potato masher to break them up into tiny, pebble sized pieces. This is a great job for an eager-to-help child. 
And yes, you *could* use a knife, but the potato masher is actually easier. (and depending on your pan, you might scratch it while using the knife. And if you wanted to avoid that, you'd have to remove the patties and get out a cutting board and then this would involve way more work than it's supposed to, so just go with it. Use the potato masher!)

Throw in your onion, 3 more quarts of stock, spinach (drain it if you're using canned), 
3 tbsp of basil (yes, lots. Even more if you have the spunk. More basil will not ruin this soup.)
2 tbsp of lemon juice, or vinegar (the lemon juice is best, but the vinegar will do.)
Garlic powder-this is up to you, it just depends on how much garlic you like. I did about a 3 tsp for the whole pot. I like it best if I can taste the basil more than the garlic.

Bring this to a boil, make sure that the spinach is broken up and completely defrosted if you started from frozen.
Add 1.5 cups of the pasta and return to a boil until the pasta is cooked through. (If you use brown rice, use only 1 cup, and you'll need to boil it a little longer.)
You could add more pasta if you like, but it will be less brothy-so it really just depends on you, and how thin or thick you like your soup.

I usually fine tune the seasonings at the end, adding pepper, more bouillon if needed, sometimes more lemon juice etc.

Serve, and garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil if you're lucky enough to have it!

Enjoy! (and let me know how you liked it!)


  1. Oh I do like the sound of this recipe! I always have beef and turkey burgers (and veggie) in the freezer! Great idea :) And thank you!

  2. I am a huge fan of soups and eat them year round myself. Love the ingredients you posted and actually have some veggie burgers in the freezer so this just went on my menu for tomorrow night. Thanks so much for sharing Corrabelle.