When I was little, I was a totally picky eater—I’ve written about it here. But despite my revulsion at the time for tomato soup, I was always happy to eat a bowl of my best friend’s mom’s soup, which, without giving away her recipe, was a beef-based tomato soup with pastina. “Favorite soup,” they called it, quite simply, because it was her big brother Ricky’s… you guessed it… favorite soup.
When winter came on in a sudden gust last week, I suddenly craved some. Knowing that a new soup might be viewed with suspicion around here (the apples don’t fall far from the tree), I thought we needed some alphabet noodles to make it irresistibly exciting. Knowing that Favorite Soup in its traditional form would be too light for my husband, who would probably end the meal rooting around in the cheese drawer and pouring himself an extra-thick Imperial Stout just to fill up, I thought of those other impossible-to-hate kid pleasers, mini-meatballs.
Reader, we licked the pot clean. Meanwhile, the kids were completely captivated by the fact that I knew the *actual inventor* of the recipe, as well as the kid who inspired it. “You knew Ricky?” asked my son, spellbound, as if Ricky were some mythical hero he’d been dreaming about for years, and not a kid he had just heard of this second. I was momentarily tongue-tied. “I know lots of people who invent recipes,” I said, clumsily attempting to use this moment to sum up my actual career. (I have interviewed Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich! yelled a voice in my head. Worked with Ruth Reichl and Martha Stewart! Published all sorts of recipes!) But he’s 6, so instead I went with what would really impress him. “Yep, I knew Ricky.”
Favorite Soup with Mini-Meatballs
adapted from Marie DeMario
Mix together 2 parts ground beef to 1 part breadcrumbs, an egg, and some salt and pepper. Roll into tiny meatballs and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Combine a large can of pureed tomatoes with a large box of beef broth; season with a pinch of oregano. Add meatballs. When ready to eat, cook half a box of alphabet noodles until al dente in salted water; drain and combine with soup.