Up until last week, the weather here has been mild and quite lovely. Then seemingly out of nowhere, it snowed on Saturday and now it is downright cold. Though I’d be happy if the weather warmed up about 20 degrees, one wonderful effect of chilly weather is the feeling of warmth provided by a big bowl of hearty soup. And any frugal cook knows that when soup is the star of the meal, the pocketbook is pleased.
One of my favorite soups is Italian wedding which is traditionally made with beef meatballs and chicken broth. My version of Italian wedding soup is inspired by recent Thanksgiving festivities — the meatballs are made from ground turkey and the broth is turkey broth. I cheated on these meatballs though; I used frozen pre-made meatballs. I’ve made meatballs a couple of times before, but it’s labor intensive and I’ve found that my meatballs taste no better than the frozen ones and are no less expensive, so I pretty much don’t make my own meatballs anymore.
Italian Wedding Soup
Servings: 4 generous
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (you can use less or more depending on how much of a kick you like in your soup)
- 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1-2 carrots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1-2 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 32 oz turkey (or chicken) broth
- about 16 frozen turkey meatballs
- about 1/3 cup of small dried pasta (I used fusilli. Don’t use too much pasta or it will soak up all the yummy broth)
- 4 cups loosely packed kale, torn into bite size pieces (you could use escarole, spinach or some other leafy green instead of kale if you prefer)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping
Heat butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onion and sauté for about four minutes or until the onions start to become translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté another minute (don’t let the garlic brown). Pour the broth into the pot and bring the heat up to high until the broth begins to boil. Add the meatballs, let the broth return to a boil, and then turn down the heat and allow the soup to simmer. Follow the directions on the meatball package for how long to cook the meatballs. When there are about 10 minutes left for the meatballs, add the pasta, simmer a few minutes and add the kale (the directions on my package of meatballs said to cook them about 20-25 minutes, so I added the pasta after about 14 minutes and the kale after about 17 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into big bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, to taste.
- butter and olive oil: $.25 (obviously an estimate, and probably a high one at that)
- onion, carrot, celery, and garlic: $.50 (again, an estimate but I think it’s pretty accurate)
- kale: $2
- turkey broth: $1.99
- meatballs: $1.66 (I used about 2/3 of a package of meatballs that cost $2.49)
- pasta: $.20 (actually, the pasta I used was free since my aunt gave it to us, but if you don’t have an aunt who keeps you fully stocked in pasta, then the 1/3 of a cup of pasta called for in this recipe might set you back about $.20)
- seasonings (red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese): $.50 (this is another high estimate but Parmesan cheese can be a bit expensive and I like a lot of it on this soup)
Total per serving: $1.78
Do you have any favorite soups? What about casseroles? In addition to soup, casseroles are another favorite for a frugal gal like me when it’s cold outside.