Recipe – Chicken Meatball, White Bean, and Spinach Soup

Growing up, meatballs were for two things – spaghetti and subs. It turns out they can play a starring role in so many other dishes – including soup. Here we swap ground chicken in for beef and get a really wonderful wintertime soup that’s not particularly hard to make. Bonus – the leftovers are amazing.

Some tips:

  • For the best flavor, moisture, and consistency, look for ground chicken that is a blend of both white and dark meat.
  • When mixing the meatball mixture, don’t overwork the ingredients. Stop when they are combined. Unnecessary mixing will lead to a super-dense meatball.
  • You’ll want to start the meatballs early as putting them in the freezer for and hour will help them maintain their shape while browning.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to brown the meatballs right. Probably 15-30 minutes.

As with most of my recipes, use the ingredients and directions as a guide. Experiment with flavors and techniques until you get it the way you want.

Ingredients (for the meatballs):

  • 2 pounds ground chicken (preferably a white/dark meat blend)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients (for the soup):

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk (leaves removed), diced
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (your favorite variety)
  • 2-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • ½ tsp salt (more to taste)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 celery stalks (leaves removed), sliced
  • 1 can of drained and rinsed Great Northern Beans (or white bean of choice)
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, packed

Make the meatballs:

  • Place all the meatball ingredients *except for the oil* in a bowl an, using your hands, mix them altogether until combined.
  • Using you hands, shape the chicken mixture into balls (you decide the size) and place them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
  • Place the meatballs in the freezer for an hour. It’s ok if you freeze them longer, they’ll just take longer to cook. This is also a good time to prep your soup ingredients.
  • Once you’ve removed the meatballs from the freezer heat your soup pot and add 2 tbsp oil (or enough to coat bottom of pot). Set heat to medium-high.
  • Brown the meatballs on all sides in the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. The pot should remain uncovered during browning. You may need to brown the meatballs in batches. Don’t rush this part. Good browning of the meatballs is the difference between a good soup and a great one.
  • As the meatballs finish browning, place them back on the baking sheet and set aside for later.

Make the soup:

  • Add the oil and butter to the already hot soup pot that you browned the meatballs in.
  • Add diced onion and sauté for approximately 2 minutes
  • Add diced carrots, celery and sliced mushrooms and continue sautéing for approximately 4 minutes
  • Add minced garlic and sauté for another minute
  • Add chicken stock to pot and stir all ingredients together
  • Add sliced carrots and celery to pot
  • Add meatballs to pot, gently submerging them below the surface of the liquid.
  • Bring soup to a light boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer
  • Meatballs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165ºF (depending on size of meatballs this should take 5-15 minutes. Use a thermometer to be certain.)
  • Salt to taste.
  • Finally add white beans and spinach and stir them in.
  • Allow the soup to return to temperature (about 5 minutes) and serve.
  • If soup is done early (or prepared in advance) simply remove from heat until approximately 20-30 minutes before serving.
  • Slowly return the soup to serving temperature making sure the meatballs are between 150º and 160º F (this is simply for taste/texture at this point, not safety. As long as meatballs were originally cooked to 165º F there should be no food safety issues).

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