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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Homemade SpaghettiO’s With Meatballs

Homemade SpaghettiO's (1)

What’s better than reliving one of your favorite childhood meals. You know the one I’m talking about, SpaghettiO’s with meatballs! Well, I’ve recreated this dish for you and its super easy to make.

Making homemade sauce and meatballs takes this to dish to a grown-up level that will definitely surprise you, guests. I have a couple of great ingredients tips for the meatballs that are going to blow your mind.

Let’s start by making the meatballs and getting them into the oven before working on the sauce.

Normally I wouldn’t use a store-bought basil pesto, however; in this instance, I’m using it as an ingredient in the meatballs. If you’re going to go this route, buy the basil pesto you get from the refrigerated section, of the grocery store, rather than the jarred version. In some of my earlier posts I’ve mentioned using basil pesto in meatballs really elevates the flavor, and when you think about it, they’re really ingredients you would most likely add to the meatball mixture anyway.

When making the mixture for the ground meat, you want to start with the flavorings in a bowl first. That mixture needs to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, you’ll add your choice of ground meat and combine. I use a fork to slowly combine the wet flavoring mixture to the ground meat. Keep the ground meat as loose as possible, do not over mix. This will ensure you’ll have super tender meatballs. Below are 3 ice cream scoops. The middle one is about an ounce or a 2 tablespoons scoop. For my mini meatballs, I’m using a scoop which is about half the size of a golf ball, for this recipe.

ice cream soops.jpg

 

Yields: 48 meatballs
Equipment: 2 baking sheets, lined with parchment paper
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients For Meatballs:
2 pounds (your choice of ) ground meat, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, or veal.
2 extra large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup half and half, room temperature
1/4 cup water, room temperature
1/4 cup Ricotta cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup of a fresh store-bought basil pesto
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano_ Reggiano cheese. (grated Parmesan cheese is fine too)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 heaping tablespoons dried parsley flakes (finely chop and use double this amount of fresh)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of  Italian bread crumbs (you want the consistency of wet sand)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Ingredients For Sauce:
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1-15 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 large onion diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, basil sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, for cooked pasta
2 packages of la Molisana pasta

Directions For Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray them both with non- stick cooking spray.
Start by placing all the flavorings for the meatballs into a large mixing bowl. When blending in the bread crumbs, start with 1 cup, add an additional 1/2 cup if needed. The finished consistency should look like (and have the texture of) wet sand.

Add in the (your choice of) ground meat. Using a fork to combine the flavorings and meat together, do not over mix.

NOTE: If the ground meat starts to stick to the ice cream scoop, spray with a little non- stick cooking spray so the meat releases easier.

Scoop the meat mixture into your hands, roll into balls, then place the meatballs on the greased parchment paper lined baking sheets. Each baking sheet should hold 24 meatballs. For nice golden brown meatballs, spray the tops of the meatballs with a little non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 45 minutes.

Directions For Sauce:
While the meatballs are in the oven, start the sauce. On med-high heat add the olive oil to a heavy bottom pot. Add in the onions, cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the minced garlic, Kosher salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, brown sugar, and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes. Next, add the chicken stock. Let the stock come up to a bubble and reduce by half. Once the stock has reduced, add in the tomato products. Turn the heat down to med-low and let simmer until the meatballs come out of the oven.

After the meatballs come out of the oven, add them to the sauce. Simmer sauce for another 45 minutes.

Cook 2 packages of the pasta according to the directions. In a large serving bowl, add the well-drained cooked pasta. Add 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese and toss through. Ladle the sauce with meatballs to the pasta and toss through. Add fresh basil leaves. Serve up table side into individual bowls. Garnish each bowl with sprigs of fresh basil. Have extra cheese on hand for your guests.

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Italian Wedding Soup Two Ways


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The name Italian Wedding Soup stemmed from the combining of meat with pasta. Growing up, in my home, pasta was served separately from the meat dish.

This post will show you everything you need to know on how I make this soup. My secret ingredient, for the most flavorful meatballs, is basil pesto. Surprised!, don’t be, when you break down the ingredients in basil pesto, you’ll find that most of those ingredients are in my meatballs anyway.

I have done variations of my Italian Wedding Soup like, instead of small pasta, I’ve used mini cheese ravioli. It’s really delicious way to give an extra surprise to the dish.

I think whenever your making a recipe that calls for meatballs, it’s important that they are tender and full of flavor.

My basic recipe for meatballs  is always the same, whether using ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken. The exceptions are when I make a Greek or Asian dish that call for meatballs. That’s a story for another time.

I’m going to show you two versions. One made  with a short cut pasta called Ditalini, the other with mini cheese ravioli.

What’s great about making extra is, you can freeze the soup for another time. First label and date the bags. Whenever I freeze a completed soup, I let it come to room temperature, transfer the soup into tight fitting zip lock bags. Release all the air possible, then close the bag. Lay the bag out onto a sheet pan in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the sheet pan and you can stack the bags of soup.

I’m also making a double batch of meatball to show both versions of my Italian Wedding Soup. This recipe yields 30 meatballs. If you’re going to use half of meatballs, let them come to room temperature. Next, place them in the frig for 30 minutes to chill. Label and date the zip lock freezer bag transfer them to the bag, releasing as much of the air as possible, close it up and place into the freezer.

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The one thing that’s important when making meatballs, is to mix all the flavoring first.  Once all the flavor ingredients are placed into a bowl, mix to combine. This mixture should have the consistency of wet sand.  Then I’ll add in the ground meat. I’ll also use a fork in order to combine the flavorings with the meat. This keeps the meat light and tender. Taking a fork to combine the ingredients, takes a few minutes longer but it’s well worth it. Your meatballs will be light and tender.

I line two  baking sheets with parchment paper and allow a little space between the meatballs for even cooking. I spray the tops with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray to help them brown evenly. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

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While the meatballs are cooking in the oven, I utilize this time for chopping all my veggies. To start, I have two heavy bottom soup pots on the stove set on medium heat. All my veggies ready to go. It’s the standard Mirepoix, onions celery, and carrots, along with some minced garlic. To each pot I’ve added some olive oil. I throw in the onions first to start them softening.

Once they’ve started to soften I add in all the other veggies. At this point I season with salt and pepper. I let everything sauté for about 5-7 minutes before adding in the low sodium chicken stock. I’m using chicken stock, instead of broth, for a deeper chicken flavor. I’ve  also kept the rind from the grated cheese that I added earlier into the meatballs. It’s great to throw them into soups and stews for depth of flavor. To both pots, I add in the chicken stock. I bring them up to a bubble, then reduce to a simmer.

Now it’s time the meatballs come out of the oven. Carefully, add half the meatballs (15) to each pot. Let this simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Next, add the pasta, mini Ravioli to one pot, and Ditalini to the other.

Give each pot a big stir. The pasta will start to float when it cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Lastly, I add one package of the thawed frozen spinach, that’s been squeezed really well of any excess water, to each pot and stir it around gently. Turn the heat off and cover until your ready to serve.

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 375 degrees F. for meatballs 30-35 minutes
Cook Time: 50-60 minutes
Total Time: 1hour 20 minutes
Yields: 30 meatballs
Note: If only making one pot, use 1 1/2 pounds of ground chicken (15 meatballs) otherwise freeze the other 15 meatballs.

Ingredients: For Meatballs
3 pounds of ground chicken
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of fresh basil pesto ( in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, next to the fresh pasta)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
3 cloves of freshly grated garlic
2 tablespoons of Ketchup
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano- Reggiano)
2 cups of Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup of freshly chopped Italian parsley

Ingredients for soup:
Note: cut recipe in half, for one pot of soup,  with the exception of the pasta. Choose which pasta you want to use. Use only 1-1/2 pounds of ground chicken for 15 meatballs.
4 tablespoons olive oil ( 2 per pot)
2 cups of diced onions
2 cups of diced carrots
2 cups of diced celery
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 quarts plus 4 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2 cups of Ditalini pasta ( short cut tube shaped pasta in one pot)
1-24 ounce package of mini cheese ravioli ( in the other pot)
2 packages of thawed frozen spinach

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Start with a large bowl and add all the ingredients for the flavorings for the meatballs. Once everything is in the bowl mix well. You want the flavorings to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, add the ground meat to the bowl. Using a fork, mix the flavorings through the ground chicken. It may take a few minutes but your meatballs with be light and tender. Using a small ice cream scoop so meat mixture into your hand. This will ensure the meatballs will all be the size of golfballs.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay the meatballs on the baking sheet with space between each one. Lightly spray the top of the meatballs with non-stick cooking spray to ensure they will brown nicely. Place the meatballs in the oven.

While they are cooking, dice all the veggies and mince the garlic. On medium heat, prepare your pot(s) with the olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes. Add the diced onions in. Let them start to soften before adding in the rest of the veggies. Give all the veggies and garlic a big stir and add the Kosher salt and black pepper. Let sauté for 5-7 minutes. Next, add the liquid. If you have the cheese rind, leftover from grating the cheese, go ahead and throw that into your pot(s).  Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.

At this point, the meatballs will be ready to come out of the oven. Add the meatballs to the pot(s) very carefully. Let them simmer on med-low for another 15 minutes. Now it’s time to add the pasta. Throw in your pasta of choice, or both if you’re making two pots like I have. Carefully give the pasta a big stir. Let this cook for another 8-10 minutes. Once the pasta floats to the top, it’s time to add in the drained thawed frozen spinach. Again, carefully give the spinach a good stir to incorporate it through the soup. Turn the heat off and cover until your ready to serve.

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Chicken Sausage Meatballs Over Pappardelle

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Thanks to my mom and grandmother, I’ve learned so much in the art of making great meatballs. The one important thing that they both told me was not to overwork the meat, when mixing all the ingredients together. Well, keeping that in mind, I went one better. I came to the conclusion, that if you mix all the wet ingredients along with the spices first, then add in the meat, there was less likelihood of over mixing. Let me show you what I mean.

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First, in a large mixing bowl I add in all the ingredients that will flavor the meat. After it’s been mixed together, I’m looking for it to have the consistency of wet sand as shown in the above picture. I do use a secret ingredient, fresh store-bought basil pesto.

In another bowl I have some ground chicken ( it’s a mixture of dark and white meat) and sweet Italian sausage. Add the meat to the flavor mixture. I use a fork to combine all the ingredients. It does take a minute, but it will ensure that no over mixing happens.

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I used a pound of ground chicken and a pound of sweet Italian sausage for this recipe. Using the large size ice cream scoop, to keep them all the same size,I then rolled out each meatball. This yielded about 22 golf ball size meatballs. On two baking trays lined with parchment paper, that I lightly sprayed some non-stick cooking spray, I lay the meatballs out, with a little room between each one. Lastly before baking them off I sprayed the tops with a little of that non- stick cooking spray to ensure they would brown nicely.

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While the meatball are baking in the oven, I start on the tomato sauce. In a large pot on med heat I sauteed some diced onions until translucent. To the onions I added in some minced garlic, dried oregano,crushed red pepper flakes, Kosher salt, and black pepper. I stirred that together and then cooked those for a minute more. Add the tomato paste for some of that deep tomato flavor. Stir that until the tomato paste melted in with the onions and garlic.

Next, add the low sodium chicken broth. Let that come up to a bubble then I reduced the the heat for a couple of minutes before adding in the tomato product. Next, I add in  the brown sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes and let all this come up to a bubble before reducing it to a slow simmer.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees F..

Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and let everything simmer together on med-low heat for around 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, start cooking the pasta.

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I am totally a fan of Pappardelle. The wide ribbons have so much more surface area for the sauce to adhere. I just follow the instructions on the package using the standard salted boiling water. After I’ve drained the pasta really well, I take a cup of freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese and place that into the bottom of the bowl.

 I toss the cheese through the pasta, very gently, so all those ribbons get coated really well.  Then I take a couple of ladles full of the tomato sauce and toss that through.  what you are witnessing is that the cheese sticks to the pasta, and the sauce sticks to the cheese. Win Win!

Finally, I finish with ladling some of the meatballs on top with a bit more sauce, and a little more sprinkling of that cheese. Serve with some crusty cheese bread.

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Prep Time: 30 minutes ( this includes making the meatball mixture and dicing the onions and garlic for the sauce)
Baking Time For Meatballs: 20 minutes at 375 degrees
Cooking Time For Tomato Sauce: 45 minutes
Yields: 22 golf size meatballs
Equipment: 2 baking trays lined with parchment paper, large Dutch oven pot

Ingredients For Meatballs:
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage
1 pound of ground chicken
1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup of fresh basil pesto (store-bought pesto can be found in the refrigerated section where you find the fresh pasta and sauces)
1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 cup of plain Panko bread crumbs
1/2 a cup of seasoned Italian bread crumbs
3 cloves of freshly grated garlic
2 large beaten eggs
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup of Ricotta cheese
1 cup up of half and half ( start with 3/4’s of a cup and add more until you get the consistency of wet sand)

Ingredients For Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 diced onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 cup of low sodium chicken broth
2 -28 ounce cans: 1 each of San Marzano whole tomatoes and crushed tomatoes (be sure to break up whole tomatoes)
1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the pasta (reserve some for garnish)

Directions:
Start with making the meatball mixture. Then roll the balls out and lay them out onto 2 parchment paper lined baking sheets that have been sprayed with non- stick cooking spray. Also spray the tops of the meatballs lightly with the spray. Bake them off at 375 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes. While the meatballs are baking off, start on the tomato sauce. Once all the ingredients have been added to the pot, like described above, and the tomato sauce is at a low simmer, remove the meatballs from the oven.

Next, transfer the meatballs to the sauce. Let all this cook on a slow simmer for 45 minutes. Next, start the water boiling (don’t forget to salt the water) for the pasta. Drain the pasta really well, have some grated cheese ready in the bottom of a large bowl before adding in the drained pasta. Toss the cheese through the pasta, then ladle in some of the tomato sauce and toss that through. Place some of the lightly coated pasta into a serving bowl, add on a ladle or two of sauce with the meatballs and finally sprinkle with cheese.

Serve with some great cheesy bread.

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Ribollita With Homemade Chicken Sausage Meatballs

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This traditional Italian vegetable soup has had a makeover. I’ve added chicken sausage meatballs to what was an already perfect soup. Now it’s even more delicious.

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I went to my butcher and had him grind up some boneless- skinless chicken breast for me. I add the ground chicken into a large mixing bowl and add the usual suspects for flavorings. I’m also going to add some whole fennel seeds to give it that Italian sausage flavor. I thought that the sausage flavor would enhance this recipe, but still keep it on the lean side by using chicken, instead of pork. I’m also going to post the ingredients for my meatballs here, this way, if you wanted to make this dish completely vegetarian, just leave the Pancetta and meatballs out. Replace the chicken stock with vegetable broth. The Ribollita would be just as delicious.

Oven 375 degrees
Prep Time: 5-7 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Yields: 24 walnut size meatballs
Ingredients:
1 pound of ground chicken breasts
1 large egg
2 tablespoons of finely fresh chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup of heavy cream
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of freshly ground Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
Directions:
Mix all the ingredients together, but do not over mix. Just once all the flavorings are mixed throughout the ground chicken. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spray each one with non-stick cooking spray. Using a small scoop, make the meatballs walnut size. Spray the tops of the meatballs lightly with the non-stick cooking spray, and bake them off for 20 minutes at 375. They will have a golden crust and finish cooking in the soup, and absorb all the flavors from the broth while they are simmering away. Now for the star, the Ribollita.
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I always like to do my prep in advance of making any dish. I took the time to prep while the meatballs were baking in the oven. All my veggies are diced, the garlic is minced, and the Pancetta is diced. I have Cannellini beans the are rinsed and drained, half of the I purred in a food processor. All I did to do that was to add them to a food processor adding 3-4 tablespoon of the unsalted chicken stock to loosen then up so they would puree nice and smooth.  I  the Kale chopped, Savoy cabbage chopped, and the fresh basil chopped. I also have ground up the cheese and cubed some sourdough bread with the crusts removed. Twenty minutes have passed and the meatballs are out of the oven, on stand- by, waiting to be dropped into the Ribollita. Let’s get started.

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In a heavy bottom soup pot, I’m going to start sauteing the onions, on med heat, just until they are soft but not brown. Next I’m adding in the Pancetta. I cook those together for 3-5 minutes until the Pancetta has released some of it’s fat. Next, I add in the crushed red pepper flakes and a bay leaf. I stir the flakes around in the pan so it releases a little heat for this dish. Moving on, I add in all the veggies and minced garlic, along with some Kosher salt, and black pepper. I let this all cook together for 10 minutes until the veggies start to get tender.

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Now for some liquid. I’m adding in 1 can of San Marzano whole tomatoes. Stir that all around and then I add the kale, Savoy cabbage, chopped basil, along with some freshly grated nutmeg. I stir all this together and let cook for another 5-7 minutes, giving the cabbage and kale a chance to will down. Once the cabbage and kale have wilted down, I turn the heat down to med low. I add in the pureed Cannelini beans, stirring that through and letting it combine with the other ingredients. Now for the whole Cannellini beans. To that I add in the unsalted chicken stock and the chicken sausage meatballs. I let this simmer on med low for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After the Ribollita has been simmering for 15 minutes, I add in the cubed bread and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Still stirring, giving the bread cubes a chance to dissolve and thicken the soup.

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Soup is ready to serve. I like to ladle the Ribollita into large soup or pasta bowl. Add a nice helping of the cheese that I ground up earlier on top. Finally a drizzle of the best E.V.O.O on the top. I promise, if you love a hearty vegetable soup, with some delicious meatballs, I would say to try making this dish.

Yields: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time 35-40 minutes
Equipment: Food Processor
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 diced onion
1/4 pound of diced Pancetta
1 cup of diced carrots
1 cup of diced celery
3 cloves of minced garlic
2- 15 ounce cans of drained and rinsed Cannellini beans 1 pureed
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1-28 ounce can of San Marzano whole tomatoes
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil leaves
3 cups of chopped kale
3 cups of chopped Savoy cabbage
5 slices of good sourdough bread, crusts removed
1/2 a cup of fresh grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
E.V.O.O for drizzling over the top of each bowl
Directions:
First start off with making the chicken sausage meatballs ( instructions are explained at the beginning of this post). Have them baking in the oven ( for 20 minutes) while you prep all the veggies for the Ribollita; Once you’ve prepped the veggies the meatballs will be ready to come out of the oven. Set them aside until you are ready to add them into the Ribollita.
On med heat, start sauteing the onions in olive oil. Saute until softened but not brown. Add in the crushed red pepper flakes and diced Pancetta and let cook for 3-5 minutes. Next add in the veggies and minced garlic. Add in the Kosher salt and pepper and let cook together for 10 minutes until the, veggies start to soften. To the cooked veggies add the whole caned tomatoes with juice. Stir that through and then add in the kale, cabbage, and basil, letting this cook for another 5-7 minutes until the greens have wilted down. Turn the heat down to med low and add the pureed Cannellini beans. Stir the pure through and then add the whole beans. Next, add in the unsalted chicken stock. This is the point where you would add in the meatballs that were baked off earlier. Simmer, still on med low for another 15 minutes. At this point add in the cubes bread and continue simmering for another 10 minutes. Ribollita is done at this point. Garnish with fresh grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, and drizzle with good E.V.O.O.

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