Today I discovered that good quality sausages magically turn into amazingly scrumptious meatballs. They are juicy, packed with flavour and turn a nice golden brown. And unlike kid-friendly hot dogs, it's real meat without fillers or nitrates.
As Spring fights it's way into season, I love savouring these last few weeks of warm, comfort-evoking meals as we dream of warm weather, gardens and new beginnings.
Backyard chickens have been ruled out, for now, as by-laws require a coop to be 25 feet from neighbouring fences, which would attach our coop to the back of our suburban home where windows abound and sunlight should not be blocked. For a brief moment I grieved the fresh eggs we would have, but not too long, as I feel refreshingly propelled to dream and follow that dream to boot; a simple, but architecturally stunning home, set in rolling acres surrounded by trees and neighbours to share our land's bounty, 30 chickens roaming freely.
Sausage Meatball, Spinach and Pasta Soup
6 links quality chicken or pork sausages
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan or Asiago, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
1/4 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a chef's knife
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 large or 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into circles
1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups best quality, low sodium beef broth
2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 dry bay leaf
1 cup thawed from frozen chopped spinach (about half a block)
1 1/2 cups small pasta shapes
fresh grated Parmesan or Asiago
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Prepare the meatballs by removing sausage casings and combining all meatball ingredients, season lightly with salt and pepper.
Shape meatballs into 2 inch diameter balls, place in a rectangle glass roasting dish. You'll have about 15 meatballs.
Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tbsp grated Parmesan. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 - 30 minutes until golden brown and caramelized.
While the meatballs are roasting, set a large stockpot over medium heat. Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil, then add the garlic and thyme (leaves only). Gently saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add carrot, onion, and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Pour in the beef broth, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
Add spinach and small pasta shapes, continue to cook another 5 - 10 minutes.
Once the meatballs are cooked, remove them from the oven and add to the soup. Cook 2 -3 minutes to allow the flavours to come together. Season to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Serve in shallow bowls. Sprinkle with additional freshly grated cheese.
And next time you're making pizza, roll the dough out a little larger than the baking stone, sprinkle some mozzarella about 1 inch from the edge, then roll and seal the edges. Top pizza as usual. Kids adore it, husbands included.