Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Souper Noodles!

Zuppa di Tagliatelle di Riso al'Italiana con Polpettini con Semi di Finocchio
Italian Rice Noodle Soup with Fennel Seed Meatballs

Of course we are all accustomed to seeing rice noodles in our supermarkets, or at our local Asian supermarkets... and we all have had them at every single Asian restaurant we have ever been to... but I always found it intriguing trying to imagine just how Italians go about using them? 

Over the past few years, I have noticed more and more of them on the shelves at the supermarkets back home in Sicily, when I visit my parents. Of course, the reason they are there is because there are so many people who have problems with flour and gluten in their diets- just like everywhere else in the world. But the thing is- there are just not that many Asian restaurants in Italy- and Asian food is not something that many people prepare at home. It just isn't. I doubt that many Japanese or Thai mammas prepare lasagna or pizza that often either! ;-)

Obviously, rice noodles are not well suited to traditional Italian tomato sauces or suchlike and even less so to any cream based or buttered dishes or sauces. I have heard of people using them to make salads with. Well... maybe. I just can't get excited about the idea of an Italian styled salad, with the dressings they have over there, using rice noodles. I just can't. Don't hate me for it!

BUT. Here I am, with my poorly tummy, having only eaten a banana all day and taken a lot of fluids and knowing I need to eat something! I have to be careful with spices, fat, anything that is too "heavy" at the moment- so soups seem to be a good idea. 

Alas, the kinds of greens I love are rather tabu at the moment, as are beans or chickpeas, so a full-on "minestrone" would be pushing it a little. Still, a handful of peas I figured I could handle! And a light "minestra" had to be ok, surely? So with that thought in mind, I went into automatic mode and got busy preparing this simple but delicious bowl of goodness.

On any other occasion I would of course have added more spice and certain other, otherwise "essential" items. So bear with me on this. For the broth, I used very finely sliced celery- about half a stalk and a half of a carrot, cut into little match-sticks. I did without onion- but I think you should use it- unless you happen to be ill as well! I got these boiling in plenty of water- well, enough for 2 bowls of soup- and got busy shaping the little meatballs.

I also did without onion there- and usually I would have used more spice and probably a little parmesan cheese... but for this evening I made do with just parsley, fennel seed and a hint of salt and pepper... sigh! The hell of it is... they still tasted great- lol! I kneaded these few ingredients into the ground meat, which was just a quarter pound of mixed pork and beef at most. I might have used egg and bread crumbs normally, but for today, I just wanted to get some of the meat flavor into the broth and so I kneaded the meat a little more firmly than I normally would, which made it bind and hold together just fine. I added them to the carrots and celery, along with a handful of frozen peas, a few of the tender celery leaves, a good pinch of chopped parsley and a bay leaf- and let them simmer away for 15-20 minutes.

Whilst the soup was simmering, I soaked the rice noodles in warm water for 10 minutes, according to the instructions on the bag... I suppose this is in order to rinse some of the starch out of them- in any case, I did try to skip this step in the past and the noodles did stick together more. So yeah... it's a good idea!

I added the noodles and a few sliced-up cherry tomatoes, stirred them in until the noodles were soft and then let them simmer for 5-10 minutes. So yes, this was a very mild broth- still delicious, but obviously something you could elaborate on. But on the other hand- every now and again something this simple has a certain allure to it. In any case, the combination of flavors was lovely together and one that I hope you will enjoy as much as I did. Buon appetito!

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