Herbed meatball minestrone


* HERBED MEATBALL MINESTRONE



1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds


1 teaspoon oregano


6 ounces very lean ground beef


Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 teaspoon olive oil


1/2 cup sliced onion


1/2 cup sliced carrots


2 garlic cloves, crushed


1 cup canned low-sodium, whole tomatoes (including juice)


1 cup low-sodium tomato juice


2 cups fat-free, low-salt chicken broth


2 cups water


1/2 cup acini pepe, pastina or other very small pasta


1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained


2 cups washed, ready-to-eat spinach


1/2 cup fresh basil torn into small pieces


2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Mix fennel seeds and oregano into ground beef. Add a little salt and pepper and form into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Heat oil in a medium-sized, non-stick sauce pan over medium-high heat. Brown meatballs on all sides, about 5 minutes. They will be cooked through.


Remove to a plate and add onion, carrot and garlic to pan. Sauté 2 minutes without browning the vegetables. Add the whole tomatoes, including juice, and break them up with the edge of a spoon. Add the tomato juice, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Add pasta, reduce heat slightly and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure the pasta cooks freely in the liquid.


Add chickpeas, spinach and basil to soup. Return meatballs to the soup, stir and cook to wilt spinach, about 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in large soup bowls with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.


Serves: 2.


Per serving: 432 calories (21 percent from fat), 10.1 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated, 4.2 grams monounsaturated), 112 milligrams cholesterol, 34.6 grams protein, 52.8 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 778 milligrams sodium.


COOK'S TIP:


* Acini pepe or pastina are tiny pastas that are used for soup. If you have difficulty finding either, use orzo or any small pieces of pasta.