My friend Abi and I for years loved to cook the Escarole and Little Meatball Soup from The Sopranos Family Cookbook. Easy, rich, and tasty. If you have extra greens from your garden (and if you have a garden, you often get a lot of them) you can use almost any of them. One time Abi brought me over a big batch of it, frozen. I’ve never thought frozen soups were that appetizing. Nevertheless, a couple weeks later when I cooked it up it was fabulous – better, even, than a fresh batch.
My experience was confirmed a few months ago when my family and I had leftovers of soup I’d made the night before. My husband and I decided this soup really should set at least a day before eating.
By this time I’d made my own changes to the original recipe. I like turkey meatballs a lot (from ground turkey breast) because you can add herbs, spices, and small-dice vegetables and the turkey will not overwhelm these flavors the way beef does. I thought it might make sense to make a large batch of the soup, put a pot of it in the fridge for the next day, and date and freeze the remainder – so that’s what I did. The recipe below is a big recipe and makes four family-sized servings (well, depending on your family size!)
Furthermore, I think it’s almost a crime to make meatballs without a flavorful shredded Parmesan cheese.
1/2 cup oil
4 49 oz. cans chicken (or vegetable) stock, or equivalent
8 cloves (1/2 head) garlic
2 pounds carrots
4 pieces stale bread (if you only have fresh bread, toast it and let cool)
2 tablespoons salt, divided into 1 and 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fennel
2 tablespoons dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh, small dice)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 pounds ground turkey breast (or ground turkey)
1 pound spaghetti or similar pasta
2 large or 3 medium bunches greens – spinach, kale, romaine, escarole, or a combination
3 gallon freezer ziploc bags, or equivalent
Heat oil on medium heat in the bottom of a very large stock pan. While itâ€™s heating, peel garlic cloves and put in a food processor. Process until small-dice (between 1/4″ and 1/8″) and remove half of the garlic. Saute in the oil until soft. Add the stock or broth to the pot. Cover and turn to high.
While the stock heats up, wash and peel all carrots. Coarse chop three large or four small carrots and put in the processor with the garlic. If you have fresh parsley, wash and chop or put in food processor. Pulse. Add bread slices and pulse.
If you do not have a food processor or do not want to use one, dice the garlic and parsley, grate the three carrots and tear up the bread into 1/4″ pieces then proceed.
In a large bowl whisk eggs, then add mixture from food processor, 1 tablespoon of the salt, the pepper, fennel, and dried parsley. Mix up. Toss in milk. You want the mixture the texture of uncooked stuffing, not to have liquid. Add more or less milk accordingly. Add the parmesan cheese and finally, the three pounds of turkey. Mix with hands until uniform.
By this time the stock should be boiling. When it does, take lid off and add the remaining 2 tablespoons salt. Form meatballs either small or size of a ping pong ball and drop in (careful! Don’t get splashed). Do not add meatballs all at once, but if you have a friend to help, that’s good (It’s a lot of meatballs!). When the meatballs have all been added, add lid and reduce heat slightly to an active simmer.
Wash and slice the greens. Greens should be no larger than the head of a large spoon. Slice the remaining carrots into 1/4″ coins. Break the spaghetti into thirds.
Ten minutes or so after the last meatball was added, add the spaghetti, bring to a boil. Add the carrots. Bring to a boil and cook for the pasta directions. Lastly, add the greens and stir until wilted.
The soup is now ready to be eaten, cooled, or frozen. I usually put a dinner sized serving in a small pot in the fridge. I cool the rest in the fridge and then later divide to be frozen. Bon appetit!