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After Christmas Dinner: Italian Wedding Soup

I usually make Italian Wedding Soup for our Christmas Eve supper (see the posting for "In the Advent Kitchen -- December 24"), but I decided to wait until after Christmas this year. The soup is incredibly easy, economical, and people really like it. They'll want seconds, or thirds, or .... The soup also is a nutritious "meal in one pot." Italian Wedding Soup is loaded with lots of carrots, spinach, and tender little meatballs. Dried basil and Parmesan cheese in the meatballs give them wonderful flavor, and breadcrumbs keep the meatballs light. The bubbling soup is great on a cold day and the perfect thing to serve for a casual supper the day (or two) after a heavy Christmas dinner. Add a salad and bread, and you've got a great meal. Want dessert? Surely you have some Christmas cookies or other desserts left over from earlier in the week? Or just go for bowls of ice cream. Whatever you decide, this soup will be a great foundation for a meal to serve family and/or guests when you need to take it easy.

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup – Serves 8+

16-20 ounces of lean ground beef (93 percent)

2 eggs

1/2 cup of dried seasoned breadcrumbs (preferably Panko crumbs)

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (the kind from the round green

container is fine)

2 teaspoons of dried basil

2 tablespoons of dried minced onion

64 ounces of reduced sodium chicken broth

32 ounces of water

1 tablespoon of chicken reduced sodium "Better Than Bullion"

1 1/2 cups of shredded carrots (or chopped is fine, too)

1 16-ounce bag of frozen spinach

1 cup of uncooked orzo (whole-wheat, preferably)

Shredded Parmesan to serve (optional)

Combine the beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, basil, and onion and and mix them well. Set the mixture aside for 10-15 minutes. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, bring the broth, water, and "Better Than Bullion to a boil. Stir in the pasta and carrots. Stir the meatball mixture and then form small meatballs (3/4 inch or marble-sized) and drop them in the bubbling broth. Stir the soup mixture gently and then return the pot to a boil. Add the spinach and again bring the pot to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook the soup until the pasta is tender and the meatballs are done, stirring frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each serving with a bit of shredded Parmesan cheese if you’d like.

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