hearty, healthy, and ready in a flash!

have you ever had one of those nights where no two people in your family are ever in the house at the same time?  where soccer practice, after-work meetings, parent-teacher conferences and dance class get in the way of dinner time?

well, when I was growing up, my family definitely had those nights.  its tempting to just stop by a fast-food restaurant on the go instead of finding time (and the energy!) to cook dinner. but let’s face it– fast-food is hard on your waistline, arteries, and your wallet.

so what would you say to a weeknight meal that sticks to your ribs (hearty!), is full of veggies and good vitamins and minerals (healthy!), is only FIVE ingredients (cheap!), and is ready in 15 minutes (fast!)?  i guarantee you can make this meal any night of the week, and it will be hot and steamy whenever your family rolls in the door!  get ready for a delicious bowl of italian wedding soup!

here’s what you need:
-two quarts of chicken stock (low sodium, so you can control the salt)
-1/2 pound of mini shell pasta (whole wheat!  they’ll never taste it!)
-1 pound turkey meatballs, cut in quarters
-2 packages (16oz) frozen spinach (thawed)
-2 cups marinara sauce

this is literally a fool-proof and absolutely delicious recipe!  start by cooking the pasta in boiling salted water for 5 minutes.  we definitely want to undercook the pasta, even a little tougher than al-dente, because the shells will finish cooking in the chicken broth.  while the pasta is boiling, put the frozen chopped spinach in a microwave safe bowl and thaw it out.  this should take about 8 minutes, stirring once or twice.

in a large soup pot, warm up the 2 quarts (64oz) of low-sodium chicken stock with a nice pinch of black pepper.  once the pasta is par-cooked, drain it and put it aside to cool off for a moment.  take the spinach out of the microwave and just make sure that it is no longer frozen.  *hint: keep that spinach water!  all of the vitamins and minerals that make spinach so good for you are cooked down when spinach is heated and remain in the green water.  don’t throw it away!  since this is a soup, save the water and add it in the broth with the spinach!

and now, its time to assemble!  in with the chicken broth, add the spinach and all of its water.

then, add the quartered turkey meatballs and mini shells.  this is a perfect way to get more whole grains in to your family’s diet– they will never know its not white pasta when its mixed in the delicious soup!

lastly, finish it off with two cups of your favorite marinara or tomato sauce.  this adds a great subtle tomato flavor and a beautiful blush to the soup.  bring the entire soup just to a boil, and then turn the heat off.  and there it is: quick, healthy and hearty italian wedding soup!

serve with crusty rolls and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and I guarantee your family will love it.  the nice thing about this soup is that it gets better the longer it sits, so make a big pot and let everyone help themselves when they finally get home!

bon appetite!