I know it's May and all, but it's been downright chilly around here the last few days and after standing in the freezing rain for a couple of hours at my daughter's soccer game, I resolved that springtime or no, I was going home and making soup. This is what I happened. And now, cold weather or no, I think I will be making this all spring long--we all loved it!!
Do you cook with ground chicken often? I have to admit that it's only my second foray into it, other than these Skillet Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Cream Sauce which I posted last year and were absolutely delicious, so I have no idea why. But my latest attempt with the adorable and addictive little meatballs for this soup, has firmly put me into the ground chicken camp and I suspect you will be seeing quite a few more dishes that incorporate it on these pages in the near future.
That said, it's not only the meatballs that make this soup--the combination of the leeks, carrots, spinach, pasta and parmesan, combine so well together to make a light but immensely flavorful broth that certain people in my house inhaled. Literally, I turned my back for about 1 minute and my daughter had finished the bowl of soup and was asking for seconds (in her defense, she was starving--had played a hockey and soccer game already, but still!). I sat down a few minutes later and gobbled a bowl down too and even my notoriously snail-eater husband, polished off a bowl in record time. It's that good!
Every bite is so warm and comforting--exactly what you need when it's May but it kinda feels like November!! Yikes!
Spring Minestrone with Mini Chicken Meatballs
Makes 4-5 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes-1 hour
For the Meatballs
About half pound of ground white meat chicken
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (use fresh or ready made)
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 garlic gloves, 2 minced and 2 thinly sliced
2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the Soup
1 leek, white and light green parts, rinsed well and sliced into thin rounds
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup ditalini pasta (or any other small pasta you like)
2-3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
5 ounces baby spinach
1. To make the meatballs: Into a medium bowl, place the chicken, 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and mix all together well. Make small meatballs and set aside on a plate (I got about 28)
2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the meatballs in two batches, letting them brown on all sides--should take about 5 minutes, total--they'll finish cooking in the soup. Using a slotted spoon, remove them to a plate and set aside.
3. To make the soup: Add the leeks to the same pot and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until they are beginning to soften. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 1 minutes, stirring. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and carrots and simmer for about 8 minutes, until the pasta is almost al dente. Add back in the meatballs and cook for another 5 minutes, until the pasta and carrots are tender and the meatballs are cooked through. Add the spinach and the remaining 3 tablespoons of Parmesan. Stir until the spinach is wilted and the parm is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary and serve.
4. This soup reheats really well and can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also double the meatballs since you're making them anyway, and have extra ones around. That's what I did--they were delicious to nibble on or serve with a some tomato sauce.
Note: Recipe adapted from a 2012 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. I toyed around with proportions and some ingredients.