Sunday, 8 January 2012

Italian wedding soup with mini lemon, basil and chicken meatballs

Happy new year dear blog reader...I hope your festivities were as food and drink filled (and fueled) as mine.

If like me, you're one of the millions of people now feeling a little wobblier than usual and craving healthier nosh, you may be kicking off your new years eatings in the same way. 

Eating delicious and interesting food is important to me all year round, and I certainly don't believe that being 'good' has to mean being boring. At the moment our house is seeing the return of winter salads, broths, slinky vegetable crammed soups, and oriental aromatics. And these and a little extra gym time are already helping feelings of normality to return. 

If you haven't tried this soup before I urge (actually, I plead) you to give it a go - once you discover how easy and tasty it is I'm confident it will make its way into your regular dish repertoire. 

This Italian soup is usually laced with more indulgent ingredients - the delightfully salty percorino cheese, Parmesan, chicken sausage, eggs and breadcrumbs, I miss them out in my version of this classic but not to the detriment of the dish - the broth packs a punch, the fluffy little meatballs are aromatic and juicy, and the overall dish feels both healthy and delicious. 

For two and some leftover for the next day (unless you scoff it all, which is a distinct possibility)
3 large / 4 regular carrots, peeled and top and tailed, top and tailed and grated. I use my food processor for this, on the fine setting
2 celery stalks, top and tailed and grated the same as the carrots
4/5 handfuls small pasta shapes - I used cavatelli but orzo or your favourite small shape will work too
350g skinless and boneless chicken thighs (or breast if you prefer, but thighs are cheaper, tastier and more succulent)
A large handful fresh basil 
1 large red or golden onion, half finely diced, the remaining half left whole
A fat clove of garlic, smoked if you have it but if not don't worry
The rind of one unwaxed lemon 
Sea salt and black pepper
1.5l chicken stock - if you aren't using fresh stock I'd suggest using pork stock cubes, they have a far better and more authentic taste than chicken cubes
A large glass of dry white wine
Unsalted butter
Olive oil for frying
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
A couple of handfuls fresh spinach

Start by making the dumplings
- Into a food processor place the lemon rind, chicken, basil, half onion, garlic, and lots and lots of salt and pepper. Blitz for a minute or two so the mixture is finely and thoroughly chopped and mixed
- Form into small balls, you should be able to get 12 or more out of the mix, depending on the size you make them, and set aside on a plate
- Once you've used all the mix to make the balls, place a knob of unsalted butter and glug of cooking olive oil into a frying pan and turn it onto a high heat. When the butter starts to foam place the meatballs into the pan. Cook them on all sides, you're looking to get them nice and brown, this should take around 10-15 minutes depending on your hob (am having to work on electric at the minute which seems to take a bit longer to do things) once nice and golden remove and set aside

Now onto the soup
- In a deep bottomed saucepan place another knob of butter and glug of cooking olive oil. Bring to temperature on a medium-high heat and once the butter begins to lightly foam, add the chopped onion
- Cook for around 6-7 minutes, stirring continuously, and once the onion begins to turn translucent (not brown) you want to add the carrot and celery. Stir and cook for a few minutes, then add the wine, stock, generous scrunch of pepper
- Bring to the boil and then add the pasta - make a note of the timings as 5 minutes before the pasta is done you'll need to add the meatballs to the pan to poach through
- Into the bowls you're eating from place a handful of fresh spinach (the hot liquor of the soup will cook the spinach through and keep its colour)
- When the dumplings are ready - a clue is that they'll float to the top of the pan, it should take just 5 minutes on a high heat - take the pan off the heat and ladle the soup and meatballs over the bowls with spinach
- Give a glug of your favourite extra virgin olive oil and eat


  1. 2 years ago cooking for me Meant taking a fishfinger out of the freezer, sticking it in the oven and hoping it didn't burn. I've improved a tiny bit since then with the help of blogs (especially this one) and therefore I decided to attempt this today. Not only does it taste amazing, but it was so easy I did it whilst I had two 2 year olds running riot. My husband, who is properly weird about food, said it was a bit too soupy but he'd have it again. Praise indeed.

  2. I'm so glad you liked it Zoe - and I do take Steves comments as high praise indeed! X