Mini-Meatball Soup

This soup was inspired by Italian Wedding Soup (minestra maritata). The name is a reference to the fact that the greens and the meats marry well together in the soup. Eventually, pasta was added as an ingredient when it became more readily available. You may choose to add other greens such as kale, cabbage, or escarole in rustic Italian style. Look for the freshest seasonal green in your local supermarket or farmer’s market and just cut it down to bite size, so tougher greens cook quickly.

With the addition of pasta, this soup serves as a complete meal, and it is a quick and easy dinner! The mini-meatballs are a real “kid-pleaser.”  Use lean ground turkey or lean ground beef or half and half. The soup is not only low fat, but a good source of protein and vegetables as well. You can try it with tofu or shredded chicken for a quick variation. We hope you enjoy this one-pot dinner!

Ingredients (makes approximately 38 meatballs), Serves 12-14)

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey or beef (93% lean or above)
  • 1 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg white
  • 1 cup finely minced onion
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, or thyme)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1 (6-oz) package fresh baby spinach

1. Peel and chop the carrots, and place in a large pot. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix the ground turkey (and/or beef), 1/4 cup cold water, 1 whole egg and 1 egg white, onion, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, ground pepper, and herbs. Mix well with a fork. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls or smaller. (Tip: use a very small ice cream style scoop for fast uniform meatballs.) Keep meatballs in refrigerator until ready toad to soup. 

3. Add the chicken broth and 1 cup water to the pot with the carrots. Bring to a boil, then add the orzo and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

4. Add the meatballs after the 5 minutes and continue to gently simmer for 10 minutes with lid partially covering the pot. Then, add the spinach and stir into soup until wilted, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and serve hot. 

Be sure to use a bigger pot than this one!

Made with ground turkey and 7% fat Made with ground beef and 5% fat

The calories, fat, cholesterol, protein and sodium are very similar for both the ground turkey and ground beef options.  What is less obvious is the difference in iron content between the two options.  It should be noted that the heme iron in the ground beef option will make the iron content in the spinach more bio-available and more easily used by your body.  If you have a tendency to anemia, this can be an important difference to be considered between the two options.

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