I Love This Soup So Much, I Make It Practically Every Week During the Spring

published Mar 29, 2024
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Credit: Patty Catalano

This simple spring minestrone — packed with fresh herbs, bright spring vegetables, and cheesy miniature meatballs — is lighter and fresher than its classic tomato-based kin, making it the perfect choice for the warming weather. The mild flavor of ground chicken lets the fresh chives and nutty Parmesan shine, and the broth is loaded with garlic, leeks, and even more Parmesan cheese. It’s everything I want to eat right now.

The first time I made this recipe was years ago as part of a soup swap. My friends and I gathered to chop veggies and simmer big batches of our favorite soups on a weekend afternoon. We left feeling refreshed from the community and conversation, and we all got quart-sized samples of each soup. This lightened minestrone with its Parmesan broth and herby chicken meatballs is the one I return to time and time again.

Credit: Patty Catalano

Light & Fresh Minestrone Is the Ultimate Springtime Meal

If soup isn’t the first dish that comes to mind when you think about spring cooking, it should be. Soups like this one that are made with tender herbs and green vegetables deliver the bright freshness we crave at this time of year (here’s another one I love).

You’ll start by making the meatballs. Season ground chicken with salt and pepper, and gently mix with grated Parmesan cheese, garlic, chives, and an egg. Scoop the meatballs into small rounds (just 1/2- to 1-inch in diameter) and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Next you’ll brown the meatballs, and while the original recipe calls for doing this on the stovetop, I’ve had great success broiling the meatballs instead. Don’t worry if they aren’t completely done by the time the outside is — the cheesy, herby rounds will finish cooking in the broth.

Next, you’ll begin building flavor for the light broth that forms the base of the soup. Sauté sliced leeks until soft, then add a pair of sliced garlic cloves and continue to cook until fragrant. Pour chicken broth and water into the pot and bring to a boil. Once the pot is bubbling, add ditalini pasta and sliced carrots and cook until the pasta is al dente and carrots are tender. Add the meatballs to the soup when the pasta is about 3 minutes shy of al dente. Stir in more grated Parmesan to flavor the broth and add a few handfuls of tender baby spinach, stirring until the leaves barely wilt. Ladle the meatballs, vegetables, and broth into shallow bowls and garnish with fresh basil or chives and grated Parmesan cheese.

Credit: Patty Catalano

If You Make Spring Minestrone with Chicken Meatballs, a Few Tips

  1. Turkey is a good alternative. Ground chicken can be a challenge to find, so pick up ground turkey if that’s more readily available. Whichever you choose, avoid ground breast meat, which can be too lean and dry.
  2. Make double the meatballs. The light and cheesy chicken meatballs are the star of this soup — especially because homemade meatballs feel luxurious midweek. Ground chicken usually comes in 1-pound packages, so it’s easy to set your future self up for success by rolling and freezing extras.
  3. Use a small ice cream scoop to portion the meatballs. Portioning meatballs into 1/2-inch rounds is time-consuming. A small spring-loaded ice cream scoop makes the task less tedious.
  4. Broil the meatballs. Cut down on the dishes by broiling the meatballs instead of browning them on the stovetop. Scoop the miniature meatballs onto a baking sheet, then slide that pan under the broiler just until the tops brown. There is no need to cook them all the way through since they’ll finish cooking in the soup.

This post was originally published on The Kitchn. Read it there: I Love This Soup So Much, I Make It Practically Every Week of Spring