Escarole, Beans, Meatballs & Pasta…a soup



 “Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.” Auguste Escoffier

Oh the weather outside is…too damn cold to grill.  The great plan to grill some chops and corn tonight came to a screeching halt as did our lovely 66° + that would have had me heading to the outdoor grill  and while that alone would not have deterred me, grocery shopping day did and I did a quick mental change of plans for dinner while standing in the vegetable aisle. 

Every time we do the “big” shopping day I swear that it will be a no cooking night as it takes quite a bit of time to put all the goods away leaving little time or energy for making dinner.  If we had lunch out, that pretty much makes my decision to cook someee-thing. 

Escarole was staring at me and my dinner solution was solved, escarole, pasta and bean soup was just a little bit of work and sounded so good for the now heading to the 30°’s or less temperatures.  While Panera usually has only a couple of sourdough rolls left by 11 in the morning, there were just enough to dunk a chunk in the soup, 1 for each tonight, and we will see what happens with the 3rd tomorrow. 
My homemade sausage offers plenty of flavor and seasoning and a mix of hot, mild or sweet from your market will work nicely.

Escarole Pasta and Bean Soup

Serves 4
1 head escarole (about 1/2 pound)
3 small to medium carrots, quartered and chopped
8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1-2 tablespoons EVOO…
*Optional 1 salted anchovy rinsed and dried
2 fat cloves smashed and minced garlic
1 basil leaf
Crushed red pepper
4-6 ounces ditalini
1 can drained and rinsed cannellini beans
Meatballs-makes 14-16 small meatballs
1/2 Italian sausage, bulk or homemade
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup each  freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup very finely shallot
1 large egg
Black pepper and a touch of ground red pepper flakes

Blend all the meatball ingredients, shape into 1 inch or so meatballs and sauté until they have just a little color and not completely done (they will finish in the soup).  
Cut the stem end of the head of escarole. Rinse thoroughly in salad spinner and allow to drain until ready to use.   Stack the leaves, cut into 1-1/2-inch strips. Heat a soup pot and add about a tablespoon of EVOO and optional rinsed and dried salted anchovy.  As the anchovy heats, it will break up and melt down, add the minced garlic and sauté for a minute…do not brown.  Toss the carrots in and then the escarole. After brief sizzle and a stir, toss in a few red pepper flakes, basil leaf, and add the broth, stir and simmer until escarole is tender 30-40 minutes.  Keep the soup hot and add in the ditilini, beans and meatballs simmer and stir for about 15 minutes. Serve with grated cheese, hot crusty bread, and a little ground red pepper flakes. Taste for salt and pepper or just put it on the table for those that need more salt.

Escarole, Beans, Pasta, and Meatballs