Chef Alex Guarnaschelli has a new cookbook out that will revitalize your cooking repertoire. With favorites from her restaurants, childhood and home kitchen, The Home Cook, this is a friendly, accessible volume that will point you in the right direction. Make her beef meatball soup and warm up like you mean it.
You can see it when you take a spoonful of this soup: the little meatball, poached gently in the broth, the zing of fresh serrano chile, and the pleasantly chewy couscous. It’s a great first course that can double as a meal.
- 8 ounces ground beef (chuck or sirloin)
- 2 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs, toasted
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 medium garlic cloves, grated
- kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 large celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
- 2 large garlic cloves, grated
- 2 teaspoons hot paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- kosher salt
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme, tied with string
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup Israeli couscous
- kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 small serrano chile, cut into thin rounds
For the meatballs
Spread the beef out over the bottom and sides of a medium bowl. (Having more of the beef exposed in a thin layer in the bowl will make it easier to season the meat evenly.) Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs, nutmeg, and garlic and season with salt. Add the egg and use your hands to blend the ingredients, but do not overmix. Then roll the mixture into small meatballs, each about the size of a small cherry tomato. You should have about 24 meatballs. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet. Refrigerate.
For the soup
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, paprika, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon salt. Cook until the vegetables become translucent, 8 to 10 minutes; then add the thyme and chicken stock.
Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat and skim the surface with a ladle, discarding any oil or foam that floats to the top. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
For the couscous
In a medium soup pot, bring 3 cups water to a simmer over medium heat and add the couscous. Season the water with 2 teaspoons salt and add the butter. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the couscous is al dente but cooked, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the couscous in a colander. In a medium bowl, combine the couscous with the parsley leaves and season with 1 teaspoon salt.
For the finish
Taste the soup base and adjust the seasoning. Discard the thyme. Drop the meatballs into the soup, return it to a simmer, and cook until the meatballs are cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the couscous, Parmigiano-Reggiano, the vinegar, and the slices of fresh chile. Taste for seasoning, and serve.