My sister-in-law Kim passed this recipe on to me after she made it for her family and it disappeared in an instant! Once I tried it I wasn't surprised – it is amazing and the perfect mid-week meal. The original recipe was for a slow-cooker but I've adapted this one to make it on the stove top. You can make it either way – just whatever is most convenient for you. I've changed the original recipe a little bit just to make more broth as the pasta absorbs a lot and I can promise you, you will want plenty of this soup! A delicious slightly spicy broth, with juicy sausage meatballs, pasta and spinach – it really is a complete meal in a bowl that your family will thank you for and perfect after a long day Christmas shopping!
For the Meatballs:
1lb sausages of your choice (mild Italian work well but use what you can get)
50g/ ½ cup dried bread crumbs
15g/ ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
60ml/ ¼ cup milk
1 large egg
½ tsp Italian seasoning
small pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Soup:
2 litres/ 8 cups good quality chicken stock/broth
2 tbsp tomato puree/paste
1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
¼ – ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
85g/ ¾ cup small pasta shapes (I like Ditalini the best but use your favourite)
3 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves (if you prefer you can add more)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 180C and line a baking tray with tin foil (aluminium).
Start by making the meatballs by removing the sausage meat from the casing. Put into a bowl along with the rest of the meatball ingredients. Mix well so that everything is well combined then shape into small meatballs. I use my smallest ice cream scoop for this which makes it even quicker and easier to do and means that they are all the same size. Using my ice cream scoop I usually get 35-40 meatballs so aim for that. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes until just browned.
While the meatballs are baking make the broth by combining the chicken stock, tomato puree, garlic and chilli flakes in a large pan. Bring to a boil then add the meatballs and cook at a gentle simmer for 10-15 minutes. Increase the heat a little so that it is boiling again and add the pasta. Cook for roughly 10 minutes or according to the time indicated on the packet of pasta, stirring from time to time. As soon as the pasta is ready remove the soup from the heat then add the spinach. Stir well then cover with a lid and leave to sit for 5 minutes to allow the pasta to swell a little more, the spinach to wilt and all the flavours to mingle and become even more delicious!
When ready to serve ladle into bowls and finish with a good sprinkling of parmesan.
*If you would rather make this in a slow-cooker make the meatballs as above then put the stock, tomato puree, garlic and chilli flakes into the slow-cooker/ crock-pot and then add the meatballs once they have been browned in the oven, and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Add the pasta and cook for a further 30 minutes. Once it is tender add the spinach and stir until it has wilted. Serve as above.