Aunt Suzy says . . . 

We’ve got colds around here right now, which prompted me to make a huge pot of chicken stock a couple of days ago.  I remembered this really tasty soup that I made a few years ago and thought it would be a nice change of pace from the traditional chicken noodle.  I think the biggest reason it occurred to me to make it is that it’s easy and fast.  Once you have the ingredients gathered together, it takes under 30 minutes start to finish.  That’s very appealing when one has a cold!

2 cups small pasta (small shells, small elbows, ditalini, orzo, etc.)

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 pound fresh Italian chicken sausages (roughly 4),  meat removed from casings and rolled into twenty 1-inch meatballs (pork would also work if chicken aren’t available)

6-8 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken stock

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper OR

*Several grinds of Italian Street Fair spice blend

One 5-ounce bag baby spinach ( or 5 cups bulk), coarsely chopped

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until it is al dente, according to package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Make sure the pot/oil have heated completely or the meatballs will stick. Add the meatballs and cook over moderately high heat until they are lightly browned, about 4 minutes. (I found that I needed to do this in 2 batches.)  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate. Add the garlic to the pot and cook over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 1 minute.

Add 2 cups of the chicken broth, bring to a simmer.  Add the meatballs to the broth and simmer until they are cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Add the remaining chicken stock – 4 cups for a less brothy end product, 6 cups for a more brothy soup – and season with salt and pepper (or Italian Street Fair blend).  Bring to a simmer or set aside for later use if you are making this ahead.  This soup base can be refrigerated for up to 3 days prior to serving.

Add the spinach and pasta to the simmering broth and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted and the soup is piping hot, about 1 minute. Ladle into shallow bowls and serve.  Alternatively, if you are not going to serve all the soup in one meal, you can place a little pasta and a little of the spinach in individual bowls and ladle the piping- hot soup over to serve.

*If you happen to be lucky enough to live near a Spice and Tea Exchange, I highly recommend this blend that’s sold in a grinder. You can also order online – the link will take you to their site.

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