Comfort food at its best, a hearty soup with chunks of meat and a cornucopia of bright-colored vegetables. I've been making this soup for, what, thirty years? Yikes!
The playground of my childhood was fifteen acres of woods and riverbank, rounded out with a treehouse, a cattle culvert and a cave; three gullies, boat docks and vegetable gardens; a makeshift baseball diamond, a chicken-coop-turned-clubhouse and a raspberry patch.
But we just called it 'the neighborhood', home to six families in seven houses, three owned by brothers. The year I started kindergarten, my mom used to recount, 21 kids got on the schoolbus. Within the neighborhood, we kids knew no boundaries. On the other side of the river was Ontario. Immigration? We'd swim over, boat over, skate over, depending on the season. My mom was big on yard games: in summer, we played endless rounds of croquet in the front yard then switched to badminton matches in the back. One winter, the river froze rough so dad flooded the front yard for an ice rink.
Come suppertime, we kids could be anywhere. To call us home for dinner, each family had a distinctive sound. The Andersons had the jingle of a bell, one of the Holte families the gong of a triangle. My dad pursed his lips around a conch shell horn, summoning my sister and me with a deep-bass bellow.
These days, my sister calls her boys to supper with the 'tink' of a text message. It's modern, not quite so nostalgic, but it works. And you, how are you calling your family to dinner these days?
HAMBURGER SOUP RECIPE
Time-to-table: 75 minutes
Makes 12 cups
- Splash of water
- 1 pound ground beef, turkey, elk or other meat
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 ribs celery, trimmed and chopped
- 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup frozen corn (no need to thaw)
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (may need less or more depending on saltiness of the broth)
- Generous grind of black pepper
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- "Other" - see TIPS
- 1 cup dried pasta
In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the meat in the splash of water, breaking the meat up as it cooks, letting each piece get a little 'burn' on it before turning over. Add the onion, pepper and celery as they're prepped and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Add all the remaining ingredients except the pasta, cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to maintain a slow simmer and let cook until the vegetables are cooked. (If serving later, stop here, let cool, refrigerate. Return to a boil before proceeding.)
Add the pasta and cook for 10 - 15 minutes until pasta is fully cooked. Serve and savor!
To reheat leftovers, you may need to add more liquid as the pasta sucks up the broth.
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