We’re knee-deep in snow, so we might as well be knee-deep in soup season. I know my stockpot has been getting a workout these past two weeks. And if your backyard looks anything like mine, I think you should follow suit. It’s wall-to-wall snow in this city of mine and I am feeling all the claustrophobic feels. But I have found in my thirty-something years living in Canada, that having a pot of something good simmering on the stove, can really take the edge off. But cabin fever edges – particularly pandemic cabin fever edges – are sharp, so it pays to bring out the big guns. And by “big guns” I mean this Chicken Parm Meatball Soup.
This Chicken Parm Meatball Soup is Chicken Parm in soup-form. Well, sort of. The meatballs are obviously missing the dish’s tell-tale breading. And the meatballs have a cup of full-fat ricotta for richness, which is not something you would find the original. But seeing as we’re transforming a breaded cutlet into a soup, I don’t think we have to be all that observant of the rules, do you?
If you’ve ever made meatballs before, you’re fully qualified to make this soup. And if you’ve never made meatballs before, you’re about to discover just how easy it is. Essentially this recipe works in stages. First, you make, form, and brown the meatballs. Then you create a rich marinara sauce to which you add broth, pasta, and kale. And boom! You have soup. If that sounds overly simplified, that’s because it is but only just. This recipe has very few hoops.
Meatballs are a ton of fun to make because they’re hard to screw up. All you do is pile your ingredients into a bowl and mix them all together. For this, I prefer to use my hands. But if raw meat and egg wig you out, you can use a sturdy wooden spoon. I’m not sure if this is weird or not, but I enjoy the sensory experience of mixing with my hands.
These Chicken Parm Meatballs contain a fair amount of breadcrumbs and ricotta cheese, which results in a very fine, cohesive mixture. I mention this because these were the easiest meatballs to form. So if you’re concerned at all with your meatball-rolling skills, don’t be. You’re dealing with a very firm and forgiving mixture.
When the meatballs are formed, give them a quick sear in the pot you intend to make your soup in. This will create a flavor-base on which to build your soup on. Don’t worry about cooking the meatballs all the way through. They will have the chance to luxuriate in the soup in the last 10-15 minutes of the cook-time. For now, all you need to do is brown the meatballs on all sides and set them aside. From there, you’re going to make a red sauce. Just a regular old marinara, nothing fancy. And once that has reduced, you add some broth and give it a blitz.
For those of you who hate dishes, which, let’s be real, is all of us, I’m about to propose something that will come across as needlessly cruel. I’m going to ask that you cook your orzo in a separate pot. And yes, I do have your best interests at heart. And no, not just in an elbow-grease-builds-character-sort-of-way. No, I want you to dirty a separate pot because it will make the finished soup better. I promise! Would it be easier to dump the orzo into the pot of already simmering soup? Yes, yes it would. But if you do, you will disrupt the finished texture of the soup. When you cook pasta in a hot liquid of any kind, the pasta leaches its starch into its cooking liquid, which causes it to thicken.
Adding pasta water to a skillet when you’re making a sauce is beneficial because the starch gives it body. But when you introduce starch to a soup, and a brothy one at that, it goes gummy. This is just as unappetizing as it sounds. So the solution is to cook the pasta in its own water and then add it to the soup when it’s just shy of al dente. The pasta will continue to coast its way to done once it’s in the soup. So by the time you’re ready to serve, you’ll have perfectly cooked pasta without introducing the bulk of its starch to your broth. Yes, it’s an extra pot, but it’s an extra pot with purpose.
Once the orzo is done, add it to your broth along with the meatballs and a very healthy handful of kale. Let everyone hang out together for 10 minutes and you’re done. I served this soup with a side salad, but you could serve it with crusty bread, crackers, or even another soup because you’re quirky like that and I’m not the boss of you. However you choose to serve it, I hope you slurp this Chicken Parm Meatball Soup and smile because February is rough and you deserve it.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Chicken Parm Meatball Soup with Orzo. The flavors you know and love in a different extremely winter-friendly format.
Chicken Parm Meatball Soup with Orzo
- A large dutch oven
Chicken Parm Meatballs
- 454g (1 lb) ground chicken
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano shredded
- ¾ cup full-fat ricotta
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp fresh oregano finely chopped
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes divided
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 shallots havled and sliced
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 (796ml, 28 fl oz) can whole tomatoes
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh oregano
- 7 cups chicken stock
- 250g (9oz) dried orzo
- 1 bunch kale stalks removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
- Place the chicken, breadcrumbs, cheeses, garlic, egg, oregano, lemon zest, fennel seeds, half of the red pepper flakes, and salt in a large bowl. Using a clean hand, mix the ingredients together to form a cohesive mixture.
- Form the chicken mixture into meatballs, using a one tablespoon measure as a guide. Set the meatballs aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches, brown the meatballs on all sides. You don't have to worry about cooking the meatballs through at this point. Transfer the browned meatballs to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs. Set the meatballs aside.
- Add the shallots to the pot and reduce the heat to low. Add a generous pinch of salt and saute until the shallots are just translucent. Stir in the remaining red pepper flakes, basil, and tomato paste and saute briefly.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine and add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hand before adding them to the pot. Pour in any remaining juices in the can. Bring the mixture up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir in the sugar and add the sprigs of oregano and bay leaves. Let simmer for 20 minutes or until reduced by half.
- Once the 20 minutes have passed, pour in the stock and blitz with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to boil. Once the water is boiling, add a generous pinch of salt and pour in the orzo. Cook the pasta until just shy of al dente. Drain and rinse the orzo and add it to the soup.
- Return the meatballs to the soup and add the kale. Let the soup simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve the soup immediately with a dollop of ricotta, shards of Parmigiano Reggiano, and crushed red pepper flakes.