I grew up with a version of this soup that didn't have spinach, was made with beef meatballs, and had pastina as the pasta shape. My friend Vanessa shared this truly scrumptious version with me that has spinach and healthier meatballs made with ground chicken (or turkey). I added basil to the meatballs because I just love that flavor with the cheese. You can make this recipe in a half an hour if you have ready-made stock. The original recipe involves the longer process of boiling chicken to make the stock.
This is an incredible first course for a special dinner, or you can have it with grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches for a quick weeknight supper. :) Let me know what you think!
Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (or dried whole wheat couscous)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
a pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
6 cups canned chicken stock or broth
2 cups water (or 8 cups total of homemade chicken broth/stock)
1 1/2 cups small pasta (like ditalini, mini farfalle, pastina, orzo, etc.)
5-6 oz (or more) triple washed fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1. In a deep pot over medium heat add oil, chopped carrots, celery and onions and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook veggies 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. While the veggies cook, combine meat, egg, garlic, grated cheese, bread crumbs, nutmeg.
3. Uncover your soup pot and add broth and water to the pot. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. When soup boils, reduce heat a bit to a simmer and start to roll meat mixture into small balls, dropping them straight into the pot. You are making meat dumplings that will cook in the broth. When you are done rolling the meat, add pasta to the soup and stir. Cover and simmer soup 10 minutes. When pasta is tender, stir in chopped spinach in batches. When spinach has wilted into the soup, the soup is done and ready to serve.
4. Ladel soup into bowls and sprinkle some parmesean cheese on the top if you like.
1) You can plop those little meatballs into the stock in seconds flat if you have a cookie scooper. I have a 1-tablespoon scoop, which I used. It also keeps the meatballs fluffy and dumpling-light because the meat doesn't get tightly packed from hand-rolling (although I admit I adore TINY meatballs....so if you have time to lightly hand-roll into 3/4-inch balls, I recommend it. :))
2) I always keep 2-cup serving-size baggies of homemade chicken stock in the freezer so I can throw dishes like this together in a flash. You can make homemade stock in the crockpot while you are away...leftover chicken or turkey, or the carcass, onion, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and a few herbs. Throw it all in the crockpot and fill with fresh water, put it on low and leave it for 6-10 hours. To store: Put a baggie in a glass, ladel in two cooled cups of broth, seal, and pile labeled bags in the freezer till you need them.