Simple, rustic and warming. The ingredients are simple and readily available, and the procedure is tailor-made for newbie cooks. You make meat balls, brown them in butter, pour in the broth, add the rest of the ingredients and that’s it! But like most chunky soups, this isn’t something you can hurry up because it’s the slow cooking that will bring all the flavors together into harmony. I don’t mean, however, that the soup needs hours and hours of cooking. I’m talking just a half hour. And that really isn’t all that long.
This macaroni soup with meatballs corn and spinach — or any soup, for that matter — won’t taste so good unless you start with good broth. I prefer homemade which I make in bulk and keep in pre-measured portions in the freezer. If that’s too much work for you, well… I cannot vouch for broths in cartons that are very popular in the First World which I have not tried. But I will not recommend MSG-laden bouillon cubes.
Now, about the meatballs.
For best results, used chilled (not frozen ground beef) so that it is firm enough to shape into balls.
Instead of using chopped fresh onion and garlic, I used crisp onion slices and toasted garlic bits. Why? An experiment, mostly. Fresh onion and garlic contain water and I didn’t want additional moisture in the meatballs. So I used crisp onion slices and toasted garlic bits. What do you know? The caramelized natural sugar of the onion have the meatballs a deeper flavor while the toasted garlic bits provided a subtle garlic flavor without the strong smell. I think I’ll stick with crisp onion slices and toasted garlic bits when making meatballs from now on.
No need to get OC with the measurement though — they just need to be small enough to fit into a spoon, that’s all.
During frying, some of the meatballs may fall apart. Don’t worry. That will give your soup a more natural look and better texture. There are only a few things more terrible than a supposedly rustic soup with perfectly sized and shaped ingredients that look like they came out of the factory.
One note about the corn. If I had fresh corn, I’d have used it. But I had none so I had to content myself with canned corn. If you are more fortunate than I am and you have fresh corn on hand, use it. Just cut off the kernels with a knife then scrape whatever’s stuck in the cob (see illustration).
Macaroni soup with meatballs, corn and spinach
- 250 grams ground beef with about 20% fat
- 1 small carrot finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fried shallots (homemade or store bought), chopped
- 1 tablespoon toasted garlic bits
- 2 tablespoons sliced scallions
- 1/3 cup panko or regular bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup butter
- 4 to 5 cups bone broth preferably homemade
- 1 cup uncooked macaroni (any shape you prefer)
- 1 can cream-style corn
- a bunch of spinach leaves and tender stalks ss much as you like
In a bowl, mix together the ground beef, onion, garlic, carrot, scallions, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.
Form the mixture into balls about an inch and a half in diameter.
Melt the butter in a pan. Brown the meatballs in the hot butter.
Pour in the broth and bring to the boil. Add the macaroni, stir gently, bring to the boil once more, lower the heat and simmer until the pasta is al dente, about ten minutes. The soup will thicken as the pasta releases starch into the broth.
Pour in the corn. Stir. Add more salt and pepper at this point, if needed. Continue simmering for another ten minutes. The pasta is better when cooked really soft but not soft enough to lose its shape.
Add the spinach leaves, stir and simmer for another three minutes. Serve hot.