Stracciatella with Meatballs and Pasta

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Since when did we start naming snowstorms?

That was the thought that occurred to me as I was perusing the news about the storm that dusted the Washington, D.C. area with snow this week.  (I say “dusted” since, in comparison to the amount of snow New England is getting this year, everyone else’s accumulation can only be called a dusting.)    Several articles made reference to Winter Storm Octavia.  Others referred to the storm that hit New England over the Valentine’s Day weekend as Winter Storm Neptune.  Where did this naming thing come from?  Is it a last ditch effort at appeasing some Roman god of winter, snow, and ice?

Well, after a bit of online sleuthing, it turns out that we owe this new naming trend to the Weather Channel.  Apparently, it began the practice in 2012, generating a blizzard of controversy in the process.  (Pun definitely intended.)  Some feel that unilaterally naming winter storms is not good science, will mislead the public, and is really just a big publicity stunt.  Others just see it as an opportunity to lampoon the Weather Channel and its new practice.

I don’t know about you, but whether a storm has a name is not what I’m thinking about when I look out my window and see a thick blanket of snow covering my driveway.  Nope, what I’m thinking about is what can I make today that will keep me, my kids, and my snow-shoveling hubby (thank you, sweetie!) toasty warm.

How about a piping hot bowl of Stracciatella with Meatballs and Pasta?

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This soup, which I’ve been making for years, is really just chicken and vegetables that meet up in Italy by way of the Greek Islands.  The Italian influences are evident in the use of chicken meatballs, or polpette, and the way the beaten eggs are added to the soup after the vegetables and meatballs have finished cooking.  (The word stracciare in Italian means to tear or to shred.  As the beaten eggs are drizzled into the hot broth, they cook instantly, causing the soup to thicken slightly and forming ribbons, or shreds, of cooked egg.)  Greece’s contribution is the lemon zest and juice that are added to the meatballs, making the soup reminiscent of that classic of Greek cuisine, avgolemono soup.

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The soup is also extremely easy to make.  The vegetables require only minimal preparation and no sautéing beforehand.  Instead, they are trimmed and then finely chopped in a food processor before being added directly to the broth to cook.  The meatballs can be formed while the vegetables are cooking, or they can be prepared a day or two ahead and then refrigerated until it’s time to add them to the soup.  (They can even be added to the soup frozen, although this will require a slightly longer cooking time.)  Even the pasta, which is added to the soup at the time it is served, can be made ahead of time.

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Most importantly, kids love it.  On the day I made the batch that I photographed for this post, my younger daughter ate two bowls of it for dinner.

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The combination of all of these factors make this soup a hearty, nutrient-dense, but surprisingly light tasting addition to any family’s winter soup rotation.

Stracciatella with Meatballs and Pasta

  • Servings: about six 2-cup servings
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Meatball Ingredients

1 pound chicken, ground
½ cup bread crumbs (preferably homemade like the ones here)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of marjoram
Peel of one lemon
Juice of ½ a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 medium egg
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Soup Ingredients

4 cups chicken broth (if store bought, preferably low sodium)
4 cups water
3 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into large chunks
1 large onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut into large chunks
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into large chunks
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cups orzo, cooked (1/2 cup uncooked)

Directions

1.  Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, garlic, marjoram, lemon peel, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and salt and pepper. Beat the egg with the lemon juice and then add them together with the ground chicken to the bowl. After mixing thoroughly by hand, form the mixture into small meatballs, each about the size of a cherry. (I like to use a small ice cream scoop.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

2.  Make the soup: Place the carrots, onion, and zucchini in a food processor and pulse until all pieces have become finely chopped. Place the chopped vegetables in large soup pot with the broth, water, and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the meatballs to the soup and bring it back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook another 15 minutes.

3.  While the meatballs are cooking, beat the eggs with the olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a bowl. After the meatballs have finished cooking, turn off the heat and then slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the soup, stirring constantly so that the eggs cook and form ribbons of egg distributed throughout the pot. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

4.  To serve, add several spoonfuls of cooked orzo to a bowl and top with soup and some meatballs.

Make Ahead:  The meatballs can be made ahead and either refrigerated or frozen depending on when you plan to use them.   Frozen meatballs can be added directly to the soup; it will just take longer for the soup to come to a boil after they have been added.  The soup can also be made ahead through step 2.

Copyright © A Busy Mom’s Kitchen

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