October 1, 2015

Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup

Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup via forkknifeswoon.com @forkknifeswoon

Happy October! We’ve officially made it to Fall, y’all! That means apple picking, cider drinking, pumpkin patching, leaf changing, scarf wearing, pie baking, cozy soup making, and all the other lovely things happening this time of year.

Autumn has definitely set in here in Tacoma. Mornings begin a little slower, with it ever-more-tempting to stay snuggled up under the covers on chilly, grey days. Fiery splashes of crimson and ochre have begun to dot our enduring backdrop of evergreen pines. Pumpkins and gourds sit proudly on display at the markets (and frequently roasting in our oven), and we’ve already sipped on our first batch of homemade apple cider.

We’re transitioning from fresh summer salads for nearly every meal to slow braises, lots of roasted vegetables, and my favorite category of fall eats: warm and comforting savory soups.

Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup via forkknifeswoon.com @forkknifeswoon

Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup via forkknifeswoon.com @forkknifeswoon

The base of this Tuscan kale and chicken meatball soup begins, as most soups do, with a quick caramelized mirepoix. That lovely trifecta of onion, celery and carrots, along with leeks, is layered upon with garlic, a generous squeeze of lemon, and Italian herbs, before bubbling away in a rich chicken stock. You’ll want to use the most flavorful stock you can find – or better yet make your own – as it gives this savory soup much of its flavor.

The chicken meatballs, packed with caramelized onion, garlic and Parmesan cheese, are wonderful on their own, or over pasta, but become extra special when added to this simmering soup stock. I like to use chicken thigh meat, but you could also use ground turkey (or beef or pork). On a weeknight, you could speed up dinner time by using pre-made (see recipe notes) or store-bought meatballs, or even just chop up some rotisserie chicken.

A few minutes before serving, I add the cooked meatballs and a few handfuls of roughly-chopped lacinato (Tuscan) kale, which just begins to wilt in the steamy broth. If kale isn’t your cup of tea, try using subtler, more delicate greens, such as spinach or Swiss chard. Really, any dark leafy green would work nicely. Lastly, a dusting of parmesan cheese and a hunk of crunchy bread are all that’s required before diving into this rich, flavorful, cozy soup.

Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup via forkknifeswoon.com @forkknifeswoon

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Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup via forkknifeswoon.com @forkknifeswoon

Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup

  • Author: Fork Knife Swoon
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 mins
  • Yield: 4 Servings 1x

Scale

Ingredients

Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup (about one rib) celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 small leek (white and light green parts), sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 medium lemon, juiced
  • 4 cups (32 oz) rich chicken or vegetable stock
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 11/2 cups (loosely-packed) lacinato kale, rough ribs removed and chopped or torn into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • chicken meatballs (recipe follows)
  • optional: grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Chicken Meatballs

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow or sweet onion, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken (look for dark/thigh meat)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plain or Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 Tbsp cream (or sub. half-and-half or whole milk)

Instructions

Chicken Meatballs

  1. Quick caramelize the onions: Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or sauce pot over medium-heat until shimmering. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the onions are quite soft and translucent, and beginning to release some moisture.
  2. Uncover, turn the heat back up to medium, and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the onions are golden brown and most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir regularly, and turn the heat down if the onions start to burn. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and let cool to room-temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Meanwhile, form the meatballs: Add the ground chicken to the cooled caramelized onions, and stir to combine. Stir in the egg yolk.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the herbs, spices, breadcrumbs and cheese until well-mixed. Add to the chicken mixture, followed by the cream, and use your fingers to gently mix until evenly combined. Wash your hands, coat with a bit of olive oil, then roll the chicken into 1-inch balls (slightly smaller than golf balls). Place them in rows on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper-lined sheet pan, about an inch and a half apart. You should end up with 14-15 meatballs.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until nicely browned and cooked through. Let simmer for another 5-10 minutes in the soup before serving (see below).

Tuscan Kale and Chicken Meatball Soup

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and leek, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute or two. Add the butter, and as it melts, stir in the herbs. Let cook for another minute or two, until the onions are lightly golden.
  2. Add the lemon juice, followed by the stock, and stir to combined. Cover, and bring the stock to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, and let simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Add the meatballs, and continue to simmer until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes, then add the kale and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes until warmed through and just beginning to wilt. If using a more delicate green, such as spinach, add right before serving. Serve warm with crusty bread and a light dusting of Parmesan.

Notes

The meatballs may be made in advance: Store refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen for up to a month, and reheat in the simmering soup stock for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Make it Vegetarian: Substitute rich vegetable stock and white beans for the meatballs.

Make it Gluten Free: Use gluten free breadcrumbs in the meatballs.

 

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Balbala
    April 26, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Takes a lot of work but result is yummy and heartwarming!

    • Reply
      Laura
      May 3, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks so much!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lydia Plunk
    October 2, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Dear Laura- Autumn’s harvest justifies this year’s slow wave goodbye. Thank you, again. for the inspiration to enjoy shorter days- and longer evenings with loved ones.

    • Reply
      Laura
      October 2, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Lovely. Thank you, Lydia!