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Zuppa di fagiolini e polpettine (Green bean and meatball ‘soup’)

(Ike Delorenzo for The Boston Globe)
November 11, 2009

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Serves 12

In this unusual method, the potatoes are simmered in the chicken stock, then green beans and meatballs are cooked without stirring, so the meatballs and potatoes stay intact.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 pounds mixed ground beef, pork, and veal
1 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 bunch parsley, stemmed and finely chopped
2 eggs
3 cans (28 ounces each) Italian peeled tomatoes, crushed with your hands
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2teaspoon sea salt
1/4teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 pounds small red potatoes, skin on, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 pounds green beans, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1. In a soup pot, heat the oil and cook the onion, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until it begins to brown.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the beef, pork, and veal with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, and eggs. With clean hands, work the mixture well. Shape it into meatballs about 1-inch wide; set aside.

3. To the onions, add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir well. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Add salt and red pepper. Add the potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender.

4. Add the green beans in a layer on top of the potatoes. Do not stir. Add the meatballs in a layer on top of the green beans. The layering is important: it keeps the potatoes and meatballs whole, and keeps the meatballs at the top. Do not stir the pot at all until the dish is served. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are solid and cooked through.

5. With the back of a ladle, gently press the meatballs into the liquid so they’re just submerged. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour without stirring. Some potatoes may stick to the bottom of the pan - and scorch. If you’re lucky you’ll get one of the charred red potatoes in your dish. Ike DeLorenzo