Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Cleaning

With the weather changing here so quickly I've been busy getting last years cheesy spring wardrobe in order. But I also had an abundance of other cheesy things (ricotta and parmesan in my fridge) that needed my attention as well. My plan was to make an eggplant ricotta parmesan casserole. I made it this morning and was very disappointed with the results. The eggplant had NO taste, was tough to chew, and seemed like it wasn't cooked. Ever have that problem? But being the trooper that I am, and still having a half cup of ricotta and some ground chicken floating around, I perused the internet and found a recipe from Rachael Ray for ricotta/parmesan meatballs. I changed her recipe slightly, due to my tastebuds not enjoying fennel seeds and rosemary, but the basic recipe is Rachael's. She recommends cooking the meatballs at 450 degrees for 18 minutes, which I'd never done before. But I followed her directions and they came out fine. Delicious in fact. I think the high temp/short cooking time is a 30 minute meal thing. Good to know. Anyway, when the meatballs were done, I added them to a simple vegetable soup I concocted. Yummy and satisfying.

Ricotta Parmesan Meatballs

1 pound ground chicken

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp kosher salt

3 cloves garlic grated

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (Rachael recommends grated, but I had shredded)

1 large egg slightly beaten

3/4 cup bread crumbs (I used 1-1/2 slices of ciabatta bread ground in my spice mill, but store bought would be fine)

To make the meatballs: Pre heat oven to 450 degrees. In large bowl combine all ingredients except the ground chicken. When everything is incorporated, add the chicken and combine gently with your fingertips. Form mixture into 12 to 14 two inch balls and place on baking sheet that has been misted with cooking spray. Coat tops of meatballs with spray as well. Bake 18 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Spaghetti Vegetable Soup

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

2 carrots diced

2 stalks of celery diced

3/4 cup onion diced

2 bay leaves (I use dried)

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (Debbie- if you're thinking of making this, use 1/4 tsp or omit completely)

2 cans (14.5 oz each) low fat, low sodium chicken broth

1 can (14.5 oz) water

1/2 cup frozen peas

4 oz uncooked spaghetti

1/4 cup parmesan for topping soup

To make the soup: In large pot, on low heat, add olive oil, carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Cover pot and sweat vegetables until onions are translucent (7-8 minutes). While vegetables are cooking, boil water to cook the spaghetti. Cook pasta according to package directions. Back to the soup pot...When vegetables are cooked, add broth and water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add the peas, cook 3 minutes and soup is ready.

Into 4 soup bowls add to each a portion (approximately 1 ounce) of spaghetti, 3 meatballs and soup. Top each with a tablespoon parmesan cheese. And if you've got some ciabatta bread on hand, it's a great accompaniment.

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