Okay, so it’s a bit odd to crave soup when the weather has finally turned warmer — but I say there is never a bad time for the comfort food meal, and we all need a little more comfort these days!
My grandmother was a lovely person with a big heart. Sure, she had faults, like every single other human being… but she would do anything for her family. I fondly recall the pencil cases she made me from plastic canvas, her love for her cat (Morris), and her bright blue eyes.
Don’t get the idea that she was weak, though – she mothered ten children, raising the younger ones alone after separating from my grandfather. And she could cook! I like to think some of my skills and survival mindset came from this iron-willed woman.
One of my favorite dishes Grandma made was Macaroni Soup. I presume this was a Great Depression-Era recipe, a meal borne of feeding many people at the lowest cost out of sheer necessity. It was always one of my most-requested, and it remains the essence of comfort food for me.
The basic ingredients are easy to find and simple: ground beef, diced tomatoes, onion, celery, macaroni and spices. I DID make a few changes to her traditional recipe, because, well, that’s how I cook – always looking for a way to put my signature on a dish 😊.
Grandma’s recipe starts with the ground beef, celery and onion, and enough water to cover. I tend to prefer my broth with a little more flavor, and a little less grease, so I brown my beef with the diced celery and onion and drain off the fat….
But I have discarded all the flavor, you say! True, ditching the fat ditches what broth is formed by boiling the ingredients. Trust me, there will still be enough of the goods left after draining to retain full flavor. I say my version is *slightly* healthier, and I add two boxes of beef broth to cooked beef, onion and celery mix. Yes, it is pre-made broth and lacks that homemade taste, so…..I doctor it. I add some garlic, a bay leaf or two, a cup of water, some Worcestershire sauce, and my little secret – the tops of the celery stalks with their leaves.
This brings back that touch of homemade and SO much flavor. Then, my second secret – I let that simmer ALL DAY.
The result is a concentrated, flavorful broth that still has a good fat content if you’ve used the fattier (cheaper) ground beef cuts. Because it boils down to minimal broth content, you have two options here….add water, bring to a boil and cook the macaroni in it, or my method – boil the macaroni separately and add it al dente to the cooling (removed from heat) soup with a cup of the macaroni water. Then serve it up with some crusty homemade rolls – a perfect comfort food dinner!
We prefer NOT to cook the macaroni with the broth because overcooking the noodles is far too easy, and your soup will end up with big, puffy, mushy macaroni. Plus by cooking separately, reheats for the next day’s lunch don’t result in macaroni breakdown and a thick, starchy broth. For soup junkies like me, the broth is often the best part, so I don’t want to ruin the ratio or the consistency!
I lost my Grandma just four days before my first child was born. On doctor-ordered bedrest at the time, I couldn’t attend her memorial and have my chance to say good-bye. Her influence on my cooking, and on me, lives on, though. I choose to believe those bright blue eyes sparkle every time I make macaroni soup! 😊
Do you have a family recipe that is YOUR comfort food and/or one you’ve made even better?
Share your successes with us in the comments below!
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery ribs, leafy tops removed and reserved, stalks diced
28 ozs diced tomatoes
1 C. water
2 – 32 oz boxes beef broth
1 – 2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 C. water, reserved from cooking water for macaroni
2 C. dry macaroni
Brown beef with onion and celery and drain fat; add broth, celery tops, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves and Worcestershire. Simmer as long as possible to allow flavors to concentrate. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit as macaroni cooks. Boil macaroni separately until firm-tender and add to cooling soup with 1 cup of the looking liquid. Serve with homemade rolls and enjoy!