This main dish soup recipe is chock full of bite-sized garlic and parmesan meatballs, tender orzo and fresh escarole. Easy to make and ready in less than 45 minutes, it makes a well-rounded meal in a bowl.
About the ingredients:
We really like to use ground chicken for the meatballs in this recipe because they turn out so tender and delicate, but any ground meat you like will work well.
Because the meatballs are baked separately instead of cooking in the soup, you can drain off any fat, so even ground pork is an option.
If you don’t like escarole or can’t find it, you can substitute about 6 ounces of either spinach or kale. If you use kale, be sure to remove the tough stems because the greens only cook for a short time in the broth.
Meatball and Escarole Soup
- 1 lb ground chicken, turkey or beef (see notes)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup panko crumbs
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
- 3-1/2 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 medium head escarole, chopped (see notes for substitutions)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and coat a shallow baking pan with nonstick spray.
- Place the ground meat, egg, panko, grated cheese, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a large mixing bowl and combine thoroughly.
- Form the mixture into 3/4 to 1-inch meatballs (24 to 30) and transfer to the prepared baking pan.
- If using ground chicken or turkey, the meatball mixture will be very wet. Have a bowl of cold water handy and dip your hands before forming each meatball to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands.
- Bake the meatballs until lightly browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning them once midway through the cooking time for even browning.
- While the meatballs bake, heat the olive oil in a mid-sized stockpot over medium heat. Add the dry orzo and stir to coat with the oil.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly, until the orzo is lightly toasted and the onion is softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, 1 minute longer.
- Stir in 3 cups of the chicken broth along with the undrained tomatoes and bring the soup to a slow simmer.
- Continue cooking until the orzo is tender (8 to 12 minutes), stirring frequently to keep the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- As the orzo cooks, gradually add the remaining 1/2 to 1 cup broth to maintain a thick, soupy consistency.
- Once the orzo is tender, increase the heat to medium-high, add the escarole and cook, stirring continually, until the escarole is wilted and tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the meatballs, cook for another minute, then remove from the heat and serve immediately.