Spicy Beef Meatball Soup
Note: Adapted slightly from “The Home Cook,” by Alex Guarnaschelli.
• 8 oz. ground beef
• 2 1/8 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
• 1/2 c. plain dried bread crumbs
• 1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
• 4 garlic cloves, grated, divided
• Kosher salt
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 1 tbsp. canola oil
• 2 medium carrots, cut into 1-in. pieces
• 2 large celery ribs, cut into 1-in. pieces
• 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
• 2 tsp. hot paprika
• 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 1 small bunch fresh thyme, tied with string
• 4 c. unsalted chicken stock
• 1/2 c. pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous)
• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1/2 c. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 1 small serrano chile, seeded and cut into thin rounds/slices
To make the meatballs: Spread beef out over the bottom and sides of a medium bowl (to help distribute the seasoning you will add). Sprinkle with 2 cups cheese, bread crumbs, nutmeg and 2 grated garlic cloves. Season with salt. Add egg and use your hands to blend ingredients, but do not overmix. Roll mixture into small meatballs (about 1-inch in diameter; about 24 meatballs). Arrange them in a single layer on baking sheet. Refrigerate.
To make soup base: In large, heavy pot, warm oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, 2 grated garlic cloves, paprika, cayenne and salt. Cook until onions are translucent, 8 to 10 minutes; then add thyme and chicken stock. Bring to gentle simmer over low heat and skim surface with ladle, discarding any oil or foam that floats to the top. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
To cook the couscous: In medium soup pot, bring 3 cups water to simmer over medium heat and add the couscous. Season water with salt and add the butter. Cook, stirring from time to time, until couscous is firm but cooked, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain in a colander. In a medium bowl, combine couscous with parsley.
To finish soup: Discard thyme. Drop meatballs into soup, return to simmer and cook until meatballs are cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in couscous and vinegar. Check seasoning and adjust as you prefer.
To serve, sprinkle with remaining cheese and slices of chile.