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One Family Meal

Posted 12.12.2012

Posted 12.12.2012

Last night, my husband and I went to see Band of Horses play at the House of Blues in Boston.  I haven’t been to a live show in ages, so I was all bent out of shape beforehand, trying to decide where we would eat dinner and what I would wear.  I have officially become my mother.

We sprinted over to Kenmore Square, and took our places in line behind some trendy twenty-somethings chatting about their music preferences and life after college.  When we finally got inside, I realized I was still holding onto my clunky black shoulder bag.  I had forgotten the cardinal rule of concert-going:  don’t bring anything that doesn’t fit in your pocket, certainly not a diaper-bag in disguise.

One of the bouncers asked to see the contents.  I unzipped the purse and he confiscated my last peanut butter granola bar.  With the crown of his flashlight, he pushed through the diapers, wipes, empty food wrappers, receipts, ripped-out half-finished coloring pages, broken crayons, an empty sippy cup, and finally came to a plastic sandwich bag.

“What’s in the bag,” he asked.  Oh my god.  It could be ANYTHING.  Moldy sandwich?  Smelly old dried fruit?  My mind rifled through a dozen possibilities in the split second it took to pull it out.  I held the bag up to our faces, and inside was a clear plastic mouth guard and a sticky note.  Where did that come from?  I prayed silently that my two year old hadn’t nabbed it off the floor in a supermarket or public restroom.

My husband grabbed the bag and read the note.  “Is that your night guard?” he asked in his clearest outdoor voice, then doubled over. My cheeks flamed and I started to sweat.  “I grind my teeth,” I muttered, then snatched it back from the smirking bouncer and shoved it down to the bottom of the bag.  CRAP.

The bouncer let us go, and I sped into the crowd, relieved to be swallowed up by the mass of anonymous, sweaty, college kids.

Today, my shoulder and my pride are both a little sore, but it was nice to get out for a few hours and listen to something besides Elmo’s Sing-a-Long.

When the kids woke up this morning they both hugged me tight and dragged me into the make-believe restaurant they had created the night before with their grandparents.  They didn’t let me out of their sight for the rest of the day.

SO, tonight I’m cooking one of their favorite meals, because I am Italian and this is the only way we know how to express love, thanks, respect or any other feeling on the spectrum of positive human emotion.

dutch oven with soupI’ve been serving them Italian Wedding Soup since they could sit up.  Recently, I came across this Food and Wine recipe which is faster and just as good.   The meatballs are made out of ground pork instead of beef, for a cleaner, more delicate flavor.  The chickpeas, spinach/kale and orzo add texture and balance for a solid one-pot meal.

chopped carrotssoffritouncooked meatballsI’ll assemble the soup, then let it simmer on the stove for a bit while we play restaurant, or dolls, or tag.  And I will bask in the fact that, at least for today, my band of horses still thinks I’m cooler than play dough.

grated parm

bowl of soup

Italian Wedding Soup
Print Recipe
The original recipe calls for baby spinach, but I also like using kale. I add orzo, or ditallini, or alphabets – whatever small pasta I have on hand.
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
  3. 1 celery rib, diced small
  4. 1 small onion, diced small kosher salt and ground black pepper
  5. 2 quarts unsalted chicken stock
  6. 1/4 cup orzo or 1/2 cup ditallini
  7. 1 pound ground pork
  8. 1/4 cup grated locatelli or parmesan cheese
  9. 1/4 cup breadcrumbs or panko
  10. 6 ounces baby spinach or kale, chopped
  11. 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  1. In a 5 to 6 quart pot on medium-high heat, add the olive oil, carrot, celery, and onion.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 8 grinds pepper and saute until translucent, about 6 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Add the orzo or other pasta and kale (if using) and cook 5 minutes.
  3. While the orzo is cooking, make the meatballs.  Add the pork, cheese, breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and six grinds of black pepper to a bowl.  Knead the mixture until all ingredients are well-incorporated, but don't over-mix.  Roll into tablespoon-size balls.
  4. Add the meatballs and the chickpeas to the soup and simmer for five more minutes.  Then, if using baby spinach instead of kale, add it now.  My kids like their chickpeas soft, but if you like them firmer, wait and add them with the baby spinach.  Cook an additional five minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and serve, passing additional cheese at the table.
Adapted from Food and Wine, February 2012
One Family Meal


Posted in Kid-Friendly, Main Course, Weekday Meals
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