Remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Toula’s father with the Windex? In a simile : Carlo (my mom’s partner in crime) is to olive oil as Toula’s father is to Windex. “Just drizzle a little olive oil on it” is Carlo’s motto. And when Carlo says “drizzle,” you “drizzle” because you know he knows what he’s talking about.
Carlo is Sicilian and the most animated person in the kitchen. Constantly coming up with slow-cooked yummy meat recipes, he can make a lamb shank that will knock your socks off. I admire Carlo’s way with meat and herbs as he really knows what herb is appropriate where. In his very Sicilian, throwing-around-pots-and-pans and chunking-off-ciabatta-and-cheese way, Carlo is an inspiration to anyone who wants to learn authentic Italian cooking. These are the things Carlo is master of: lentil soup, chicken cacciatore, veal marsala, pizza, roasted chicken, and giving you an honest opinion. Oh, and he’s a history buff with a mean tennis serve.
Carlo is one of my favorite taste testers because the man does not have a lying bone in his body. He tells me when my recipe is not up to par and refuses to buy in to “healthified” desserts, which makes me try harder to make my “healthified” desserts even better to pass the Carlo standard. The man knows dairy, the man knows chocolate. The words “Healthy” and “dessert” do not walk into the same room when Carlo is present, bless his ice cream-loving soul.
So for your cooking sensei, as I’m sure you have one, create a comforting ode in an over-sized pot or pan and dedicate it to the Windex-spraying, olive oil-drizzling master of the kitchen. To Carlo, the man who always knows what to say and the food that goes with it.
Sicilian Meatball Soup with Cabbage
For the meatballs
- 1-1/2 pounds ground elk, beef or turkey meat
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup breadcrumbs, optional
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
For the soup
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 large carrots, julienned
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 6 cloved garlic, minced
- 1 quart chicken, beef or vegetable broth
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup full-bodied red wine such as Cabernet or Syrah
- Rind of parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon parsley flakes
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- ½ head of cabbage, core removed and discarded, sliced (OR 1 cup of uncooked macaroni/shell pasta)
- 1 zucchini squash, chopped
To Make The Meatballs
- Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
- Using your hands, smoosh ingredients together to combine
- Form medium-sized meatballs
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high
- Wait until skillet has heated up all the way then quickly place the meatballs on the skillet.
- Allow them to sear about 30 seconds, then roll them to their opposite side with a spatula or spoon and cook another 30 seconds.
- Remove skillet from the heat, place the meatballs on a plate and set aside.
To Prepare the Soup
- In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat the grapeseed oil and sauté the onion until beginning to brown.
- Add the carrot, celery, garlic and sauté another 3 minutes
- Add the herbs and stir
- Add the broth, wine, crushed tomatoes, and the rind of the parmesan cheese. Cover pot and bring to a full boil
- Reduce heat to a low boil, add the meatballs and cook about 3 minutes
- Add the cabbage and zucchini. Allow cabbage to cook down slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Cover the pot, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook covered for 40 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and what’s left of the parmesan cheese rind and serve with chopped parsley and shredded parmesan on top.
If you choose to not add breadcrumbs, wait until soup has simmered for 20 minutes before adding the browned meatballs...if you do not add breadcrumbs, meatballs may turn out overcooked if you add them too early.
Traditionally, Sicilian Meatball Soup has some form of pasta, either macaroni or shell pasta. If desired, add dry pasta to the soup and cook until al dente or replace the cabbage with pasta.