Tweaking Recipes: A Bright and Budget Friendly Soup for Your Soul
So, I’ve been toying over what my first post should be. I’ve been watching what I’ve been cooking and nothing truly captured what I want out of this blog. A first post is important. It sets the tone for the entire blog. It must be indicative of what is to come. So, a week ago when I was at a friend’s house and she handed me a bowl of this delicious soup that she made on the quick and cheap, I was inspired. She found the recipe in a magazine and made some tweaks that cut the work time down tremendously. I tried it out for myself a few days ago and it was delicious!
People are often afraid of messing with recipes or adding new flavors but, honestly, mess away, friends. I often make cost effective swaps to utilize what I have already in my house or to make my grocery bill smaller. I’ll walk you through how I took the recipe my friend found into something simpler and less expensive. Something easy and tasty! Something that would fit into my 2019 financial goals, one could say.
Tweaking a Recipe
So, the recipe in the magazine called for making your own meatballs which you can absolutely do but I was looking for something quick and easy. I always buy Celentano Italian-Style Meatballs when they are on sale (#bogoforlife) and keep it in the freezer so I replaced the long process of making homemade meatballs with those bad boys. The key here is you don’t want to miss out on layering the flavors and getting the soup as tasty as possible.
So, how do you NOT lose the flavor of the seared meatballs? In the original recipe, you made your meatballs, cooked them, then deglazed the bottom of the pan with broth to lift up all the fond. How can you recreate that yummy fond with frozen meatballs? Well, relatively easily. I defrosted the meatballs in the microwave until they were juuuuust “not frozen” then cooked them at a medium high heat in some olive oil until they got nice and brown and started leaving a fond on the bottom of the pan (For those that don’t know, the fond is the burnt/brown bits that develop at the bottom of your pan as you cook meat).
A few other additions that I made to the recipe was adding lemon, cherry tomatoes, and celery. I felt the soup could use some brightness which is wear the lemons come in and I had the celery and tomatoes on hand already. Celery is a common soup addition and doesn’t have too strong of a flavor so you don’t have to worry about it clashing. The tomato added these bursts of tart-tomato-y goodness as you ate which I love but you can easily skip out on if you don’t like tomatoes. Overall, it all came together to make a bright, savory, and flavorful soup that works for any time of year.
Meatball and Orzo Fennel Soup
Here is what you need for this recipe:
- 2 packets of Celentano Italian-Style Meatballs (Or the frozen meatballs of your choice. Or homemade. Live your life.)
- 1 tbps olive oil
- ½ of a large onion or 1 smaller onion
- 1 large fennel bulb, cored and cut into thin wedges (Check out this video if you’ve never worked with fennel before)
- 3 sticks of celery chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced, or diced, or crushed… however you do)
- 2 14.5oz cans or cartons of low sodium chicken broth (or homemade, if you have some on hand)
- 3 ½ cups of water
- 1 lemon (half of it sliced into round, the other half set aside for juice)
- black pepper to taste
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ¾ cup dried orzo pasta
- 1 quart size package of cherry/grape tomatoes (or more depending on how much you love tomatoes!)
- Thinly sliced basil for garnish (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a stock pot on medium-high heat. Once oil is shimmering, add your meatballs (in two batches if necessary so as to not overcrowd the pan). Sauté them until they brown on the outside and a fond develops at the bottom of the pan. Once done, remove from the pan and put to the side.
- Lower your temperature to medium and add your onions, fennel wedges, and chopped celery to the pan (and more oil if necessary) and sauté until soft and aromatic but not completely see-through (look to the onions for this last one). Add the garlic and let cook for another minute or two.
- Add the meatballs back into the pan and sauté for two minutes before adding your chicken stock, water, lemon slices, lemon juice from remaining half lemon, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Cover your pot and let it cook on low for one hour.
- Remove lemon slices, and check for seasoning and adjust accordingly before adding the orzo and tomatoes and cooking until orzo is tender. Serve immediately with some chopped basil for garnish.
So! There you have it! A budget friendly soup that will feed you and your whole family! For a single 20-something, this soup is great because it lasted me and my roommate for a few days which was even better as far as budgeting goes. Hopefully this recipe and post have shown you that you can and should play around with and tweak recipes. If this wasn’t enough, don’t worry, reader. There will be quite a few more posts coming up that will deal with tweaking and playing with your food (in constructive cooking ways!).