Sis’s Soup with Little Meatballs (Minestra con Polpettine)

You might recall that last December, I demonstrated how to make quadretti, a small, square-shaped pasta. At some point, I mentioned Mom using this pasta in soup to nurse me back to health but that my Sister remembered differently. She recalled Mom serving broth filled with Acini di Pepe, “sick soup”, whenever she was ill. Well, since Monday was Sis’s birthday, why not share the recipe for her sick soup?

Soup made with Acini di Pepe is not a Bartolini tradition. Oh, sure, it was served plenty of times at the old two-flat but it wasn’t made from a recipe that had been handed down from one generation to the next. It came to us, oddly enough, from the Mother of my 5th grade teacher. Mr. D was from Upstate New York and my class was his first in Detroit. In fact, he arrived in my hometown barely 1 week before school started that September. Mr. D wanted to introduce himself to the parish and to our parents so, once classes started, he visited the home of each of his students. He chose the families alphabetically, making mine the second home he entered. And as was so often the case with newcomers who entered the two-flat, he hung around for a number of years — make that decades — afterwards. (There was a similar phenomenon in our backyard that involved Grandpa, our neighbors, and the Parish priests but I’ll save that for another post.) Eventually, Mr. D migrated upstairs, becoming good friends of Zia and Uncle.  At some point, and I do not recall how much time had transpired, his Mother and Aunt came to Detroit for a visit. It wasn’t long before they, too, became ensnared in the two-flat’s web of conviviality. Well, as luck would have it, both women were good cooks and during subsequent visits, recipes were traded. One of the very few recipes to survive is today’s minestra, Acini di Pepe with meatballs. (It took a while but I got us here.)

Acini di Pepe is a small, bead-like pasta that expands during the cooking process, much like couscous. Mom served it to Sis when her tummy was upset, just as she served me quadretti. As was her way, Doctor Mom started with broth only and gradually added increasing amounts of Acini di Pepe to the broth as Sis’s condition improved. The meatballs, polpettine, were never used for medicinal purposes. No, they were served when everyone was well and seated at the dinner table. And did we ever enjoy them. The lemon zest in the polpettine, when mixed with a hint of nutmeg, take this simple soup to an entirely different level. Now, if Acini di Pepe isn’t “your thing,” I strongly suggest you make the polpettine and use them with whatever pastina you prefer. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, yeah. Happy Birthday, Sis!

*     *     *

Acini di Pepe with Meatballs Recipe

Ingredients

For the polpettine

  • 1/2 lb ground veal
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese, pecorino romano preferred
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste

For the minestra

  • 2 quarts homemade chicken stock (low-sodium store-bought may be substituted)
  • 1 cup Acini di Pepe, uncooked
  • additional grated pecorino romano

*     *     *

*     *     *

Directions

To make polpettine

yield : approx. 100 polpettine, divided, half to be frozen for later use

  1. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until combined. Do not over-work.
  2. Use a melon baller or small scoop to fashion small meatballs. (See Notes below.)
  3. Divide all the polpettine into 2 halves and place each on separate baking sheets.
  4. Place one baking sheet into the freezer and, once frozen, place the polpettine in a container, return to the freezer for use on a later date.
  5. Use the other half as indicated below.

To make the minestra

  1. Bring the stock to a rapid boil.
  2. Add the Acini di Pepe, stir, and then add the remaining half of the polpettine.
  3. When stock returns to the boil, reduce to a medium simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir often but gently so that the polpettine remain intact.
  4. At the end of 10 minutes, taste the minestra to see if the pasta is cooked to your liking and to adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  5. Serve immediately. Have plenty of grated pecorino romano cheese available at the table.

*     *     *

Notes

Polpettine are meant to be relatively small. One polpettino should easily fit upon a soup spoon with plenty of room left for pasta and broth. Although this recipe yields about 100 meatballs, I prefer to use only about half that amount in a 2 quart pot of soup. Of course, you may use more or less depending upon your own preference.

*     *     *

And Now for the Awards Portion of  Today’s Presentation

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to have received a few awards from members within our blogging community. And lest anyone think that I do not appreciate these wonderful gifts, I wanted to make sure that each was acknowledged.

*     *     *

So, to Marie, of My Little Corner of Rhode Island, I say thank you for generously nominating me for the Kreative Blogger Award.

*

*

*     *     *

To Kathryn, of kiwsparks, and Eva, of Kitchen Inspirations, I say thanks for your thoughtfulness in granting me The (Red) Educational Shoe Award. (And to Greg: You’ll just have to wait before you get to see me in stilettos, be they red or some other color.)

*

*     *     *

Finally, to Roger, of Food, Photography, & France, mere words cannot express the depth of emotion that I experienced upon learning you had nominated me for the Sunshine Award.

*

*

*

*     *     *

OK, I know that I’m supposed to answer a variety of questions or volunteer some facts about myself and I must admit to enjoying reading others’ replies. The truth of the matter is, however, that I’m not all that interesting. I am no onion with many layers to be pulled back revealing inner truths. There is no art in this choke. What you see is what you get — and what you get is pretty boring, at that. Besides, what little there is to tell is fodder for my future posts. If I tell you everything about myself now, whatever will I write about next time or the time after that?  And so, to those who truly wish to learn more about me, I say “Stay tuned … “

The next part of any award acceptance is to pass the award along to deserving individuals. Well, there are 3 awards to pass along and I don’t even know how many bloggers, in total, I am to name. I do know, however, that no matter how many good people I nominate, I will surely forget one person and, in all probability, quite a few more. I have been treated kindly by everyone I’ve met here and encouraged in more ways than I could ever enumerate.  I’d sooner quit blogging than hurt or offend any of those who have treated me so graciously. So, rather than nominate many, I shall only nominate one.

A relative newcomer, this blogging friend has taught me a great deal. By her example, I’ve learned that less is more. That silence is truly golden. That to just be yourself and the World will be yours to conquer. And so it is that I nominate, for the Kreative Blogger, The (Red) Educational Shoe, and Sunshine awards, none other than …

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

FLAT RUTHIE !!!!!

As soon as word of the awards became known, her friends carried her off to an impromptu party at Chicago’s Fondue Stube. Pictured above, Flat Ruthie is seen with one of her dearest of friends, Thing, as they await the arrival of the fondue pots. Oh, what a night!

So, congratulations Flat Ruthie! I for one, cannot wait to read your acceptance speech. (No fair helping her, 3D Ruth.)

And to Marie, Kathryn, Eva, and Roger, all joking aside, I am both honored and grateful for the awards you’ve sent my way. Mille grazie!

*     *     *

The Versatile Blogger and Reader Appreciation Awards

In recent days, among the gifts I received were 2 award nominations from fellow bloggers and I feel honored and fortunate to have received both. In the past, I’ve incorporated awards into some recipe-bearing post. This time around, because I, also, have my own “Thank You!” notes to pen, I thought I’d devote an entire post to the matters at hand.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Recently, Sharyn of The Kale Chronicles was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award — and rightly so, I might add. (Do visit the talented Sharyn on her blog. She’s serving up quite a bit more than kale and it’s her very own, beautifully colored watercolors, included in every post, that sets her blog apart from all others that I read.) In turn, Sharyn was kind enough to honor me with a nomination for the same award. Since it wasn’t that long ago that I was nominated for the VBA, I thought I’d just post a link to my previous answers. This doesn’t mean, Sharyn, that I am any less honored nor appreciative of your kindness. Thank you very much.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Claire, whose Promenade Plantings offers a wonderful mix of recipes and gardening advice, just happens to be shushing about the Alps these days but still she found time to nominate me for the Reader Appreciation Award. Since this award is new to me, I will gratefully accept it, fulfill its obligations, and then pass it along. As I understand them, the rules are fairly simple and these have been copied directly from Claire’s post. (I hope you don’t mind, Claire, but why re-invent the wheel?)

  1. Award your top 6 bloggers who have commented the most.
  2. Be thankful.
  3. You cannot award someone who has already been awarded. And you cannot give the award back to me.
  4. Don’t forget to tell the bloggers you’ve awarded.
  5. If you don’t want to pass on this award, that’s okay to. Just admire it.

I hope that these nominations aren’t re-nominating anyone that recently won the award but, here goes …

No list of my readers would be complete without mentioning Greg and his Rufus’ Food and Spirit Guide. He was my first commenter and his encouragement meant, and continues to mean, a great deal. With Katherine, their blog is jam-packed with great recipes & tips, a must read every day. Tanya and her Chica Andaluza blog has not only encouraged me but it was her jam recipe that started me headed down Canners’ Row. I’m convinced that Linda of Savoring Every Bite is the “missing” Sister that my Older Brother often said was sold to the circus. We just have to be related since our families’ tales and practices are often one and the same. Mandy daily serves up good, often restaurant-quality dishes from The Complete Cook Book. Living in South Africa, her Summer is just beginning and I’ve promised myself, here in Chicago where Winter is getting underway, not to hold it against her. Next I would like to nominate a blog that features both food and photography. Roger’s Camerahols / Food, Photography & France features some stunning photographs of his surroundings in France. Whether the subject matter is some ingredient, a dish, a glimpse into a room, or the countryside, his photos never fail to catch my eye and capture my imagination. Lastly, but certainly not least, is the Ruth E. Hendricks Photography blog. With her camera always at the ready, Ruth shares photos of her family, each obviously shot with love and care, as well as photos from around Pittsburgh that always depict her city in the best light.

I hope I’ve not offended anyone by not including a name in my list of nominees. Ours is a relatively small blogging community inhabited by some very talented people. If you’re not on my list of nominees, you will surely be on someone else’s within days. Whether nominated here or elsewhere, I am quite thankful for the support this blog receives with every entry I post and to Claire, of course, for giving me this award.

*     *     *

And Now a Special “Thank You!”

With Christmas just passed, some special thanks are in order. Many of my gifts this year had a condiment theme, thanks to this blogging community. Inspired by Tanya and her Chica Andaluza blog, I made 2 batches of ketchup, 1 spicy and the other “inferno grade”. Inspired by Mandy and The Complete Cook Book, I made 2 kinds of whole grain mustard, 1 with Guinness Stout and another non-alcoholic. I couldn’t ignore Max’s buds so, inspired by Linda’s recipe over at Savoring Every Bite, I made a couple batches of peanut butter dog biscuits for our furry friends. And, to all who encouraged me to attempt canning last Summer, I can tell you that it really did pay off. Along with everything else, everyone received jars of grape jelly and strawberry jam. (Who’da thunk?) Lastly, but certainly not least, I included what will one day be recognized as the Eighth Wonder of the World, a jar of chocolate peanut butter. No, I did not make it but I intend to figure out how to do it!  So, to Tanya, Mandy, Linda, my fellow canners, and the good people at Peanut Butter & Co. (this is an unpaid endorsement), I say thank you. In a very real way, you helped to make my Christmas possible.

*     *     *

Let’s have another cup o’ coffee and let’s have another … award?!?!

Aside

Maybe I should start my day with tea or juice or something other than coffee. With the WP problems still around, every day I awake to a fresh batch of posts to view, some as much as a day old. This morning, coffee in hand, I learned that Sawsan of Chef in Disguise had passed to me the Versatile Blogger Award. This was every bit as unexpected as was yesterday’s Liebster Award — and certainly no less appreciated. So, thank you Sawsan for this honor and, for the rest of you, if you’ve not checked out Chef in Disguise, this is your opportunity to do so. Beautifully photographed, Sawsan takes even the most complicated recipes and breaks them down into easy to follow, step-by-step instructions that even a novice like myself can follow. Now that’s something!

As for the Award, I believe I’m expected to share 7 little known facts about myself. So, here goes, in no apparent order:

1. I am an I Love Lucy fan and member of the We Love Lucy Fan club. Honestly, what’s not to love?

2. I’ve mentioned Max a few times and Lucy once. Here are their pics. Max-A-Million is a boxer mix, Lucy a female Eclectus Parrot. Max got his name because it was a million to one shot that he’d end up with me. Lucy, well, look at her pic and read No. 1 above. And, yes, Max’s left eye is partly blue.

3. I’m allergic to penicillin, having found out the “hard way.” Luckily, the doctor who administered the shot insisted I wait 20 minutes before leaving for home. He saved my life.

4. Zia and I once led a procession of the faithful to meet John-Paul II after one of his Wednesday public audiences.

5. A life-long smoker, I quit 2 years ago — and this time it’s for good.

6. If you’re lucky enough to wait on my table in a restaurant, don’t bother reciting the dessert options and you can keep the dessert menu. Just bring me cheesecake and I will be one very happy diner.

7. During high school, I worked at a family owned, Italian foods processing plant.

Well, that’s 7 and it’s too bad I’m limited to only 7. I guess I’ll have to wait until next time before I can talk about my years in the French Foreign Legion, my volunteer work on the island of hangnail sufferers, my prison record, and my contributions to nuclear fusion research.

Now comes the hard part, nominating 15 others for this award. I know a few of the bloggers I follow have recently received this award and, so, I’ll try not to double nominate anyone. And, even though I may have nominated a few of you yesterday for the Liebster Award, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn more about you. I hope you don’t mind my mentioning you again. And if I’ve missed anyone, please forgive me.

Um … that’s not 15?

8. I can’t count.

And, thank you again, Sawsan.

*     *     *

Note: I don’t know why there’s no title and cannot get the font back to normal After about a dozen attempts at correcting this — none of which shows up in the drafts — I give up.

No. 9  I’m a quitter!

*     *     *

A cup of coffee and a surprise

I’ve no idea what has been going on with some of my WordPress features. Just this morning my “stats” page seems to have moved residences without leaving so much as a forwarding address. I know it’s here somewhere and I’ll find it sometime during my second cup of coffee. I wish that were the extent of the problems, but NOOOO! For about a week, I didn’t receive any notifications that any of the blogs I followed had posted anything. I had to rely upon emails for the notifications — and then they started to go missing. After that, while checking my admin pages, I noticed that I was no longer subscribed to some of you and so I re-subscribed. And repeated the process the next day with a new batch of blogs to which I, for whatever reason, was no longer subscribed. Over the past 2 weeks , or so, things have gotten better — not fully corrected, but better. Notifications of blog posts arrive in groups, usually a few hours after their authors have posted them, And, I guess it’s just for being patient, I now get 2 identical posts every time! So, this morning, with coffee in hand, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I opened my WordPress reader. And there it was, something I would never have expected — and twice!

My blogging friend, Cecelia, of thekitchensgarden nominated me for an award, the Leibster Blog Award. If you’ve not been to her blog, you are missing out on a real treat. Tales from her youth in New Zealand and her life today on a farm here in Illinois are woven together, using recipes as a common thread. Simply wonderful!

Now, back to the Leibster Award. What I love about this Award is that it doesn’t come with any strings attached, meaning no need to examine yourself, your blog, or anything else, for that matter. All I need do is pass the award onto 5 bloggers whose work I read and admire. Well, there’s the rub. I’m certain that I failed to mention some wonderful blogs when I was lucky enough to be given the 7 Links Challenge. It will likely happen again since I can only nominate 5  bloggers here. So, please do not feel slighted if I fail to mention your blog. Ours is a surprisingly small community. If I fail to mention you today, within a week someone else will see to it.

So, with gratitude to Cecilia, I’m going to name these 5 blogs for the Award. All of these are a part of my morning routine. They’re good for a chuckle, a recipe, a bit of knowledge, and, most unfortunately, some first hand accounts of the Summer’s worst weather. I hope anyone who reads this will take a few minutes to check out each of these 5, as well as Cecilia’s. You certainly won’t regret it.

*     *     *

The Unexpected: The 7 Links Challenge

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had great fun reading my favorite bloggers as they accepted and answered the 7 Links Challenge. It’s an interesting exercise in self-examination, offering us, the readers, a glimpse into how each blogger views her/his own work. Not only that but for a relatively newbie like myself, it gives me a shortcut into the “best of” each blog. All around, I found the Challenge to be fascinating — until I was nominated.

Before going any further, I want to thank Mandy from The Complete Cookbook for inviting me to take part. I truly didn’t expect this now and thought that I’d probably take part in a later round. I don’t know why but I envision this type of thing being circulated every now and again. If you’re “missed” this time, you’ll be “found” next time around. Well, Mandy “found” me this time around and, not being one to back away from a challenge that doesn’t involve leaving my desk chair, I’ll accept the challenge. So, let’s get started, shall we?

*     *     *

Most Popular Post

Surprisingly, at least to me, the Refrigerated Bread & Butter Pickles post has received the most “hits” day after day and week after week, since it was first posted back in June. It’s not a family recipe and it’s definitely not Italian but it certainly has been sought out, shared, and even posted elsewhere.

Most Controversial Post

I just don’t feel there’s anything controversial about any of my posts. Well, some commenters insist upon labeling me a canner because I filled a few jars with fruit. Preposterous! I do not can and you can see for yourself here and here.

Most Helpful Post

Looking back, I think I’d say the Mom’s Pasta Dough entry was probably the most helpful. I’ve subsequently referenced that recipe already several times and will again, repeatedly, in the future. If you’re going to make pasta at home, you’re going to need a good recipe to follow. Mom’s is one such recipe and, best of all, it was adapted to be made in a food processor by a friend of the family from the “Old Country.”

Most Beautiful Post

Having no training in photography whatsoever, the stills that accompany most of my posts are usually what I consider “the best of the lot.” I take a bunch of pics, choose the best one(s), and move on — and I’ve got literally hundreds of rejected photos to prove it. (Note to self: clean up Aperture, Photoshop, and iPhoto files.) . Every now and then I get it right. I happen to think that I “got it right” with the Pasta with Shrimp post.

Most Surprisingly Successful Post

I’d have to say that I’m most surprised by the success of the Steak Pizzaiola recipe. It’s a good dish, easy to prepare, and I thought it would do OK. I just didn’t expect it to do as well as it has, almost as popular as my other surprise, the refrigerator pickles recipe.

Most Under-Rated Post

Perhaps because it was posted so early in my blog’s life, I expected the Home-Made Ricotta recipe to do better than it has. I make a few cheeses here at home and not only is this the easiest to prepare, it is probably the best ricotta I’ve ever had. I’ve not bought nor used any other ricotta since I made my first batch following this recipe. More significantly, neither has Zia.

Most Proud of Post

The post I am most proud of would be My Cherry Amour, Reprise (Bigger, better, badder!) and for a number of reason. Like this whole process, it was fun to write. If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, why bother? Next, It involved cherries so it had to be good, right? Really, though, it was that cherry pie. I still do not believe that I baked it! Most of my efforts in baking aren’t worthy of being shown to close friends and family, let alone being posted in a blog, unless it’s entitled InedibleMistakes.com. I knew I had hit it out of the park when a couple of friends, and even Zia, asked if I had baked it. That’s a real compliment when people think that what you’ve just baked doesn’t look like anything you’ve ever baked. Emboldened, I may go back to that well and try an apple pie this Fall. Warn the villagers!

*     *     *

And now to nominate 5 other blogs. This would be easy if most of the blogs I’ve followed for some time hadn’t already accepted and met this challenge. There are a couple of blogs, however, that I’ve only recently started following but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read and already consider myself a fan. So, I’ll nominate them as well. It’s a bit of an eclectic group but I’m an insomniac and heaven only knows where my mouse will lead me at 3:00 AM.

And again, thank you, Mandy.

*     *     *