Smoky Spanish Albondigas Soup
- 12 oz. ground veal
- 12 oz. ground pork (preferably shoulder)
- 3 medium cloves garlic, 1 minced, 2 thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme; more for garnish
- 1/4 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. hot smoked paprika
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 oz. manchego, finely grated
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup panko
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/8 tsp. saffron
- 4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
- 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 8 oz. angel hair pasta, broken into thirds
- 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Using your hands, gently mix the veal and pork with the minced garlic, 1 tsp. of the thyme, 1/4 tsp. of the paprika, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper in a large bowl. Add the manchego, egg, and panko, and gently mix until the meat absorbs the breadcrumbs.
To form the meatballs, set a small bowl of cold water nearby and, occasionally moistening your hands, gently roll 1-1/2 -oz. portions of the meat into balls; you should get about 20. Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add half of the meatballs, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and brown the other side, 1 to 2minutes more. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate, and repeat with the remaining meatballs.
Pour off all of the fat. Add the remaining 1/2 Tbs. oil and the sliced garlic to the pot. Return the pot to medium heat and cook until the garlic sizzles, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 tsp. thyme, 1/8 tsp. paprika, and the saffron; cook, stirring, for 15 seconds. Add the chicken broth and crushed tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Return the meatballs to the pot, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the meatballs cook through (160°F), about 25 minutes. Season the broth with salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring, until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain well, return to the pot, and toss with 1/2 cup of the broth.
To serve, mound the pasta in shallow bowls. Top with the meatballs and broth, sprinkle with the parsley and remaining thyme, and serve.