It’s been soup weather here in Louisiana: chilly, rainy and gray. But it’s lasted so long that my repertoire got a little tired … we’ve had gumbo, potato soup, white cheddar and broccoli, even chicken noodle. Then I remembered one of my favorite comfort foods to whip up when I’m in the mood for soup and missing Spain — cocido.
Cocido is essentially a hearty Spanish stew filled with meat and vegetables of all kind. The recipes vary tremendously. In fact, I’ve never had it the same way twice, and in that spirit, I’ve actually never cooked it the same way twice, either. The essentials tend to be chickpeas, chorizo, chicken, cabbage and meatballs, and lots of good paprika.
I base my recipe off of this one from Rachel Ray, but alter it quite a bit. Here’s what I used:
- 1 lb ground meat
- 1 egg
- bread crumbs (I toast a few slices of wheat bread and crumble my own … about a cup is a good measure)
- dash of milk
- paprika to taste
- a blog of Manchego cheese
- Chorizo (I use about 4-5 links, but you could use less)
- two cans of chickpeas, drained (I like Goya or Bush’s)
- about four cups of chicken broth
- 1 lb large pasta shells (the kind you typically stuff)
Slice open your chorizo links and scoop out the sausage, forming it into small round balls … a tablespoon is a good gauge for size, but it’s really up to you. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch Oven (I love my Magnalite!), brown the sausage, letting all the delicious, paprika-laced oils seep out. Once they’re cooked through (about 10 minutes), add the chickpeas and let simmer for awhile so that they soak up the chorizo flavoring. Add broth and an equal amount of water (so that your Dutch oven is nearly full), and bring to a boil.
While that’s happening, start making your meatballs with the ground meat, egg, milk and breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the mixture has reached the desired consistency, start forming the meatballs, stuffing a small slice of Manchego cheese into the center of each one. These meatballs should be similar in size to the chorizo balls … not very large. Toss them into your boiling soup … they will cook in the broth.
Add paprika, salt and pepper.
After about 15-20 minutes, your meatballs should be nearly cooked through. Add your pasta shells, submerging them into your still-boiling broth as completely as possible. (Hint: I only add a handful of shells each time I heat up the soup; you could add the whole box, but leftovers will get soggy). After another 15 minutes or so, your pasta should be cooked and your soup is ready to go. Warning: this is very filling, but it’s addictive, too! You will not be able to stop after one bowl.