Chicken Meatball “Soup”

This is not a soup (ceci n’est pas une soupe). This is some of the best and most interesting chicken meatballs I’ve ever had cooked in a broth with some small pasta, but all the liquid soaks up and thickens by the end, so it’s just a sort of creamy coating on everything. It’s good – but it’s not even in the realm of stew, let alone soup.

The recipe comes from Sunshine and Smile, where it is billed as – and indeed appears to be – a “light soup.” I must have done something differently; it doesn’t really matter, though, because while it’s a different thing altogether, it’s still a good thing. It’s got all these different cuisines mixed into it. To wit: the meatballs have cumin and chili powder in them, so it might go in a Mexican direction, but then they also have parmesan cheese and I used Italian breadcrumbs rather than plain, so that was a whole Italian thing, which works with the basil and pasta situation in the soup – but oh snap we are frying up some ginger in here! That’s a whole other thing altogether! It all works really well together, though.

Chicken Meatballs and Pasta


for the meatballs
1/2 lb ground chicken
1 cup, or less, breadcrumbs – I felt like I had more than enough in there, and sometimes it was hard to get a meatball to adhere together, so maybe start with 1/2 cup and add more as needed?
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parmesan
salt and pepper
2 tbsp oil

for the soup
1 tbsp butter if you need it
1″ ginger, minced
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup small pasta – I would’ve used orzo if I had it, but I used alphabet pasta instead
1 tbsp basil, chopped
2 cups water or stock – I used up the rest of my veggie stock and made up the difference with water – plus more if needed
juice of 1/2 a lemon… maybe. I’d like to see what this is like without the sneaky lemon sourness popping up in some bites.


for the meatballs
Mix together everything but the oil in a bowl.
Form into small meatballs – I was going to use my cookie scoop but it was in the dishwasher. But that’s the kind of size to think about, like as if they were going to be cookies.
Heat the oil in the bottom of the pot you’re going to use to make the soup in.
Add the meatballs and cook until browned on each side, doing it in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pot.
When they’re done, take them out to drain on paper towels until you need them.

for the soup
If there isn’t enough oil left in the pot, throw in some butter – you’ll want about a tablespoon of whatever you’re using, so make up the difference.
Add the ginger and bay leaves.
A few seconds later, stir in the carrot and celery, and saute for 2 minutes.
Add the basil and continue sauteeing another 2 minutes.
Pour in the liquid and allow to come to a boil.
Drop in the meatballs (careful of splashes!) and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Stir in the pasta and cook another 8 minutes, keeping an eye on it for running out of liquid and adding more if needed.
Squeeze in the lemon juice and remove from heat.
Fish out the bay leaves and serve, with more parmesan if desired (I forgot about that part but it’s a good idea).

So like I said about the lemon. That’s maybe the one note of this thing that I’m not 100% sold on. Rather than brightening and lightening the soup, it just added the puckery sourness of actually sucking on a lemon (side note: when I juice a lemon, I am always compelled to suck on the squeezed-out remains, before throwing it out. I don’t know why. It’s not like one of these days it won’t be sour). Not to the point of unpleasantness, but I don’t know if that was the desired effect. Maybe just a squeeze of lemon next time? Or none at all?

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2 Responses to Chicken Meatball “Soup”

  1. Simply Life says:

    huh, not sure what happened with the lemon? Sometimes I’ll just do a bit of zest.

  2. camille says:

    Maybe it was just a particularly sour lemon. I think a few curls of zest would have been just the thing.

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