Meatball Soup

I’m a sucker for a meatball soup. First, I really like making meatballs. Second, who doesn’t like eating meatballs? This soup has two critical components: the meatballs, and the broth. The rest is flexible and easily can go in any direction you’re feeling with whatever ingredients you’ve got on hand. If I was sick I might just want the meatballs and broth. This recipe is similar to a meatball orzo soup on Smitten Kitchen, but with a few differences.

I’ve made meatball soup a lot in recent years, and I must say, last night’s meatballs were my best ever, so I had to write it down.

Ingredients for meatballs: (Serves 4-5 as a main course)

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallot finely chopped (roughly 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Ingredients for soup:

  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 quart water
  • Parmesan rind*
  • 1/2 cup orzo or any other small pasta
  • 1.5 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1.5 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • Optional: all of the above veggies could be replaced or supplemented with other veggies like spinach, swiss chard, kale, onion, whatever sounds good to you. The rest of the recipe assumes that you used the same veggies I did. If you make changes, just know your cooking times for different types of vegetables. Spinach is extremely delicate and doesn’t hold up great on day 2, so beware.

Preparation:

Place all the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly by hand. [This is my favorite part]. All the ingredients in the meatballs are important, but the shallot is particularly important because it keeps the meatballs even more moist.

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Roll the raw meatball mix into small balls with your hands. I like roughly ping pong ball size, but you can go smaller too, it’s forgiving. That one on the top left was an optimistic ping pong ball.

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Heat a skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of oil. I like using sunflower oil, but olive oil or a vegetable oil would work fine too (just monitor your heat if you use olive oil to make sure you don’t get smokey). Brown the meatballs on most sides (maybe 30 seconds per side).

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Pull the meatballs out of the skillet and set aside.

Next, get a large soup pot out and heat over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add carrots and celery and cook for 4-5 minutes. After the carrots just begin to soften, add the chicken stock and Parmesan rind and water.

Let the stock, water, rind, celery and carrots simmer for about 20 minutes to let the flavors meld and soften. Add the meatballs and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste the broth and add salt or pepper to your liking (remember: the rind adds a lot of flavor but also a lot of salt).

Now comes the magic of timing – only proceed when you know you’re about 10 minutes from eating: throw in the orzo, zucchini and fresh peas. If you’re using frozen peas, wait a few extra minutes before adding those.

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Let the broth, meatballs, orzo and vegetables simmer for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat and serve. You can shave a bit more Parmesan on top for extra decadent enjoyment.

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*Notes: Parmesan rind is something you should keep on hand in your freezer for moments like these. It’s just the tough end of the parmesan you got at the store. A few inches of rind in a soup like this will make you a happy camper. It’ll keep in the freezer for a long time.

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