Before anyone shoots me, I know this Mediterranean soup is traditionally made without meat, but my hubby and I are little carnivores, so I thought meatballs would be a nice addition! And I’m so glad I added them! They really went well in this, and rules are only made to be broken, right?
I have fond memories of this soup during a very difficult time in my life. I enjoyed this piping hot bowl of humble soup in a little Greek diner that was located right across from the Court House and the hospital, right on the town square, of where I used to live in a small town in NW Indiana called LaPorte. I was treated to this soup after many many “visits” to the hospital being poked and prodded on a regular basis. I hated going to the hospital, but knowing this comforting soup was waiting for me afterwards, actually made it bearable!
Theirs wasn’t as good as mine, I hope you don’t mind me saying that, but still very good! I made mine a bit heartier, chockfull of veggies, seasonings, herbs, orzo, and this time, meatballs! The meatballs totally took this over the top! I also like to garnish mine with some sharp, fresh romano thinly shaved and a fresh sprig of more basil!
This is a very pretty and interesting soup that I’m sure company would appreciate and I’d be proud to serve. But this is one of very few soups though, that’s actually best when freshly made, because the orzo pasta will get a bit soft after sitting and tends to almost melt in your mouth. Nothing to really complain about, though. 😉 So leftovers are still very, very good. I think the meatballs lending extra texture to the soup helps with that. 🙂
But if you want to go strictly traditional, you can of course, leave them out. But I kid you not, if you’ve ever had this soup before, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much extra flavor they add! The romano cheese also adds a boost of extra flavor, too! A nice aged parmesan would also be good, and so would a little feta sprinkled on top! Just choose the cheese that makes you smile!
The basic mirepoix, a culinary term that simply means your basic trio of carrots, celery and onions, are a must. But, you can add other veggies that would be lovely such as sweet baby peas, zucchini, yellow squash, sugar snap peas, roasted eggplant, artichoke hearts, green beans, broccoli and even cauliflower to mention a few! So you can stick with the basic traditional road, or go your own way and start a new path! Just have fun, as cooking should always be just that – fun! 🙂
I’m crossing my fingers that you give this soup a try! It’s so very, very good, and not hard to make at all! You can of course make homemade meatballs, but I’ll tell ya honestly, those Johnsonville ones are darned good and it sure cuts down on time as well as a lot of extra ingredients! They’ve become a nice little helper in the kitchen! 😉 Who doesn’t need an extra hand now and then? I know I do! 😀
So I hope this soup is soon simmering on your stovetop, too, and helps to chase Old Man Winter down street until next year! He sure doesn’t know when to leave, does he? 😀 Stay warm all….and keep thinking SPRING! 😀
ROSA MARINA SOUP with MEATBALLS, FRESH BASIL & ROMANO
1 (24 oz.) Johnsonville Three Cheese Italian Style meatballs, unthawed
1 Tbl. oil
1 Tbl. butter
2 ribs celery, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 (8 oz.) bag baby carrots, sliced into fourths
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. minced garlic, fresh or jarred
1 Tbl. red wine
1 (26 oz.) box chicken stock
1 Tbl. + 1 tsp. Superior Touch Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base dissolved in 4 cups boiling water
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste, I like Hunt’s
1 (14.5 oz.) can Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp. more salt, to taste
1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta (*orzo is small rice-shaped pasta)
2 lightly packed Tbl. fresh basil very thinly sliced
fresh shaved romano cheese, optional garnish
fresh basil leaves, optional garnish
In 6 qt. heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat oil and butter. Sauté celery, carrots, onion, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, over low/medium-low heat.
Add red wine and simmer for 1-2 minutes to cook down. Pour in chicken stock and 4 cups chicken bouillon. Stir in dollops of tomato paste until dissolved. Add sugar, and the 1/2 – 1 tsp. more salt, to taste. (*I add 1 tsp.). Bring to a boil, cover, and gently boil until veggies are tender, about 1o minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add orzo to pot and gently boil for 10 minutes stirring constantly for the first 5 minutes or it will stick to the bottom of the pot. Just do continuous figure-8’s. Then only stir occasionally during last 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for 20-30 minutes so orzo can finish cooking and plump. No more stirring needed.
While orzo is cooking that last 5 minutes (*before resting), line a baking sheet with foil, place frozen meatballs onto sheet and pop into preheated oven. Bake for 28-32 minutes until lightly browned and heated through.
When meatballs are done, gently stir them into the soup along with the thinly sliced fresh basil.
Ladle soup into bowls with approximately 4 meatballs, top with shaved romano cheese and more basil, if desired, for garnish. Serve hot with crusty bread for dipping.
*The best way to slice basil is to stack the leaves, roll them up tightly from long side (not stem end), and thinly slice with a sharp knife.