I combined two different recipes I found on the Internet to come up with this winner. It is a hearty soup, perfect for those cool fall evenings or winter nights.
24 or more homemade meatballs thawed (walnut size)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 carrots, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or minced
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. tomato paste (I use double strength from a tube)
14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 large zucchini, diced (about 2 cups or so)
1 rind from Parmesan cheese (I store these in my freezer and use in soups)
8 cups low sodium (or homemade) beef broth
15 oz can white kidney or northern beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup cooked ditalini pasta
2 heaping Tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
If you haven't homemade meatballs in the freezer to thaw, make fresh ones using this recipe.
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add carrots, celery and onion and cook until onion is soft. Add garlic, spices and tomato paste. Stir until garlic is fragrant and everything is mixed together. Add diced tomatoes and stir. Then add the MEATBALLS, Parmesan cheese rind, beef broth, beans and heat to boiling.
Simmer for about 25-45 minutes or until zucchini is cooked to your liking. Meanwhile, heat a pan of hot water and cook the pasta, drain and keep warm.
Adjust seasoning, then add spinach and basil and cook until spinach is wilted. Turn off soup and add the pasta and fresh parsley and give it a good stir. (optional -- only add 6 cups of beef broth and don't add the pasta to the soup -- but put the pasta in the bowl and ladle soup over pasta. By keeping the pasta separate, it doesn't soak up as much of the broth, keeping noodles al dente.)