Kid Tested, Toddler Approved: Meatball Soup
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Little girl is usually quite good with vegetables, but Little Boy is admittedly harder to convince. With only a handful of veggies he's willing to eat, I have to sneak other nutritous veggies like spinach or kale into other dishes he likes like pasta dishes or soups. And thus this soup was born. They love meatballs, and I can get them to eat anything with meatballs in it. This soup is very low calorie and fat and is pretty healthy. Carrots, celery and onion form the base along with garlic and bay leaf for aromatics and flavor. Ground chicken makes a healthier meatball but you can certainly use beef or even turkey if you like, and spinach adds nutrition and flavor as well. For more protein or a vegetarian version you can add a can of beans. And ditalini pasta adds fun and texture to the soup.
The whole thing came together in about 35 minutes, making it perfect for a mid-week busy night dinner. Kids and adults love it and you'll love how light you feel after eating it. Some fresh bread and a side salad complete the meal. Enjoy!
Meatball Soup with Chicken Meatballs, Spinach, and Parmesan
for the meatballs:
1 lb ground chicken thigh meat*
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 egg lightly beaten
2-3 Tbsp bread crumbs
for the soup:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped small
1 carrots, peeled and chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp fresh basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup ditalini pasta (or other small pasta like orzo, alphabet, etc.)
grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Mix the meatballs first. Place the ground meat in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the onions on medium-low heat until softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the onions to the meat, then the garlic, parsley, egg and 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Using a fork or spatula (or your hands!) mix to combine. If the mixture feels too wet and won't come together into a ball, add a little more breadcrumbs until to achieve this. Form the mixture into balls -- I like doing very small bite-sized balls if making this soup for kids also -- and set on a plate. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. The chilling will help the balls keep form when introduced into the hot soup.
While the balls chill, make the soup. Heat the olive oil in a pot and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Season with some salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaf and garlic and stir to combine, another minute. Add the broth all at once and stir to combine. Bring soup up to a simmer. Add the spinach and cook a minute until wilted. Next, add the meatballs. Remove from fridge and while still cold, gently drop the balls one at a time into the simmering soup. Use your spoon to help guide them in safely. Cover with lid and reduce heat down to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove lid, add the pasta, parsley, and basil (if using beans you'd add them now as well) and cook another 5-6 minutes (or according to pasta package direction). Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.
To serve I like to do a sprinkling of parmesan in the middle, but this is totally optional. Goes great with fresh bread as well.
*I used ground chicken thigh meat because it's slightly fattier and more flavorful for a soup. You can certainly use ground chicken breast, turkey, or classic beef or pork meatball as well. Same amount, same mixture.
If you want to add beans then add a can of your favorite beans. Cannelini, red kidney, pink pinto, and even black beans would work great here. Garbanzos will take a tad longer to cook, so if you use those then add an extra five minutes to the cooking time. And make sure no matter what bean you use, drain them and give them a good rinse in cold water before adding to the soup!