greens, orzo and meatball soup

Seeing as I am a sucker for anything with the word “wedding” in it, be it an excuse to smash cake in someone’s face, bake cookies or in this case, put meatballs in soup. Of course, traditional Italian Wedding Soup (also known as Minestra Maritata or Pignato Grasso) is said to have little to do with happily ever afters, but the marriage between meat and vegetables in a soup. Associated with southern Italy, but more often parts of the Northeast, most recipes today have pork, a leafy green and some form of pasta in it, typically tiny ancini de pepe confetti. This soup is a quick riff on that, with turkey meatballs so good, I’d encourage you to make extra to serve with a future spaghetti dinner, escarole (though unable to find it, I used swiss chard), orzo and carrots in chicken stock.

turkey parmesan meatballsparmesan makes meatballs taste betterparsley makes meatballs prettierchill them until neededcarrotsdried orzocook the meatballsusing baby spinach these days

I’ve been pretty slackish about making dinner lately, but this was one of those things that go me over it, albeit briefly, as it could be done in a reasonable amount of time on a weekday evening. Or a snowy night, tucked in with a good movie and some dreamy chocolate pudding.

wilting the greens
greens and orzo soup with turkey meatballs

Greens, Orzo and Meatball Soup

  • Servings: 4 as a main course
  • Source: Bon Appetit, February 2003
  • Print

[Previously called: Escarole and Orzo Soup with Meatballs]

2018 Update: Over the years, this has become a winter staple, a kid-friendly (meatballs, pasta, cheese, nothing not to love) but also fairly quick (the meatballs are the only real work) meal for weeknights. Originally written for escarole as the greens, while it works here, more often than not we use baby spinach, kale or Swiss chard greens instead; I’ve updated the title to note this. If you’ve got time, of course, it’s even more amazing with a homemade chicken or parmesan broth (or, even better, a chicken broth cooked with a couple parmesan rinds) but the meatballs do most of the heavy lifting here. We always serve it with extra parmesan on top. In 2018, the soup got some much-needed fresh photos as well.

It always occurs to me after the fact when I make this that if using a more tender green (baby spinach or chard), a few leaves could be well-chopped to replace the 2 tablespoons parsley in the meatballs, should you not already have parsley around.

This make 4 main-course servings, although with kids, we find it feeds 6.

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 12 ounces ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Assembly
  • 8 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 3/4 cup (about 4.75 ounces or 135 grams) orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped escarole (about 1/2 medium head), swiss chard, kale or baby spinach (about 3 ounces of leaves)

Make meatballs: Whisk egg and 2 tablespoons water in medium bowl to blend. Mix in breadcrumbs; let stand one minute. Add turkey, parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper; gently stir to blend. Using wet hands, shape turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on baking sheet; chill while you prepare the next steps, or 30 minutes, if you have the time.

Assemble the soup:: Bring chicken broth to a boil in large (4 to 5-quart) pot. Add carrots and orzo; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered 8 minutes. Add turkey meatballs and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in chopped greens and simmer until turkey meatballs, orzo, and escarole are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Do ahead: This be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm over medium heat, thinning with more broth if needed or desired. Leftovers go over well in thermoses for lunch the next day.

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191 comments on greens, orzo and meatball soup

  1. Strange…. I made this on Tuesday for the first time. I was able to find Escarole at one of our local markets and it was wonderful, however, my leftovers turned into Risotto, which is still delicious, but I think next time I’ll cook the orzo separately and add it per serving so it stays a soup. Great winter weather weeknight meal! (that was a lot of Ws)

  2. Linda

    I make this soup often…I sometimes add a can of rinsed and drained Cannellini beans
    to it at the end of cooking just to heat through. If the leftovers are too thick…just add some more broth. I also make the meatballs out of ground chicken sometimes and those are really delicious as well.

  3. Oh, yummy. I make a chickpea escarole soup that always gets raves. I’ll definitely try this version.

    (I can usually find escarole at Safeway. They put it with the bibb and romaine lettuces. You have to be careful you grab the right kind. Bibb lettuce doesn’t hold up very well in soup! Found that out the hard way.)

  4. Oh, Deb, I love the fact that we got a little snow too… I was desperate to see it! You’re already making good use of your wide angle lens with those shots of the park. BTW, how do you get the pictobrowser to work on a wordpress blog? Or have you migrated away from wordpress by now? I can’t get the darn thing to show up on my blog and was just wondering. I’ll go back to swooning over your photos now….

  5. Liz

    This looks delicious, as do the photos. Everything is all gorgeous in white up here in Connecticut as well, but somehow, your photos still make me want to take the trip down to New York for a walk in the park. Or — even better — stay home and make this delicious soup.

  6. Lucky you for the snow, I miss it, and your photos are beautiful. We are getting to warm weather time here in Charleston, it is cold this weekend though. I will give your soup a try it looks delicous. My dad cooks with escarole alot, I am sure he will like this also.

  7. I am insanely jealous of the snow. Rarely do we get more than a spattering, at best. When we were in New York a couple of weeks ago, there was some snow and I was embarrassingly excited. Not that anything accumulated, but just seeing actual snow was enough for this Southern girl. I am so ready to pack up and move north!

  8. I work on the fourth story (tall for New Haven) of a modern building. 15 feel of glass per story, and my desk is right next to the windows, facing outward. I feel like I’m in a snowglobe. I love it! I’m glad the snow came early because it was such fun to wake up to it – but I might feel differently if I had to commute to work.

    Was it actually snowing when you took these photos? I’m scared to take my camera out with the snow, but I really want to get some shots of this. (It’s still snowing fairly heavily in CT).

  9. We switched to ground turkey for meatballs a while back (exactly your recipe above, plus crushed red pepper and more garlic…always more garlic). I find we get a little grossed out at the toughness and overpowering meatiness of other ground meats now… Anyway, a couple weeks ago we had only 6oz or so of ground turkey and wanted spaghetti and meatballs. There were these button mushrooms that were just sort of hanging out in the fridge, so I minced up 4 or 5 and threw them in, and it was a definite success. If you ever find the plain-turkey meatball mix too light in flavor, the minced mushrooms give it an earthiness that’s really satisfying.
    Also, gorgeous pictures! They make tolerating our weeks and weeks of snow (upper midwest) almost seem possible.

  10. oh my god Snow was my first book! I don’t believe it’s a Dr. Seuss book though, it’s P.D. Eastman. “Snow snow snow. Look at the snow.” I grew up in Buffalo, it was very fitting. The soup looks wonderful.

  11. Stephanie

    This looks absolutely delicious, and has made me hungry for… a second lunch, since I don’t have any of your soup on hand. Beautiful snow pictures- come to Colorado if you want more of that ;-).

  12. deb

    Alissa — I think it’s that recipe of the day feature on Epicurious, getting us all on the same cooking schedule. I actually liked that it thickened a little, but I like thicker soups!

    Linda – I love the beans idea; had seen it in the comments on Epicurious but then forgot to add them. Next time.

    jennbec – I use the WordPress publishing platform but on my own server/host, so maybe I can do things that the hosted WordPress doesn’t allow? I had always assumed they were the same, but I guess not.

    Rachael – Yes, it was snowing and I was terrified of getting the camera too wet, which is why the shots are kind of rushed and snapshot-y. I only had the wide angle on, and wanted to switch to the macro/50 mm to get closer shots of details but was too worried to get the camera interior wet. And I hadn’t brought a towel, because I was worried I’d be carrying too much and would lose my balance with 7 pounds of camera equipment on me. In short: I was a bundle of anxiety. Typical.

    sara – That is so great! Tell me, were you disappointed that you couldn’t make perfectly round snow balls like they had in the pictures?

    Btw, if anyone is confused as to why my friend Jocelyn has been sporadically leaving Beastie Boys lyrics in the comments lately, it’s because she’s SO EXCITED that we’re seeing them in a few weeks. As am I. But my favorite lyric of theirs can’t be reprinted. Alas.

  13. A few weeks? Try ONE week and FOUR days.

    She’s crafty – she’s gets around
    She’s crafty – she’s always down
    She’s crafty – she’s got a gripe
    She’s crafty – and she’s just my type
    She’s crafty

  14. Yum, I would totally make this AND love it.

    I get what you mean about fresh snow; there really is nothing else like it. The pureness, the cleanliness and the quiet that it brings- we Minnesotans get that a lot, and this year has been a good one. Your pictures look like the past few months here.

    And that book? TOTALLY one of my favs! I loved the dog in it.

  15. AngAk

    thanks for clearing up the Jocelyn thing. Loved the NYC pics. I always wondered if it really looks like the movie “You’ve Got Mail”, and your pics do indeed look like those street scenes. I must visit sometime.

  16. AMR

    I read “Of course, this isn’t a story about how cute I was when I was four (though the correct answer is “very”)…” and, seeing it was a link, clicked it thinking ~ Oh goody a baby picture!
    *Well* you were quite an adorable little pot carrots my dear.

  17. Oh thanks for posting this! I love wedding soup, but have never made it myself. I’m also trying to eat healthy as many days out of the week I can, so I love the idea of turkey meatballs. Very nice.

  18. This soup looks delicious. As to your lack of snow, I’m jealous. In Iowa, we haven’t seen our driveways since November! The neighbors had the roof to their covered porch collapse under the weight… and we lost cable (omg no interwebs dying agh) for almost a week. We haven’t had a winter like this in… uh, ever.
    LOL to AMR’s comment!

  19. OMG I did the same “rememorizing” when I was little! Only I told my kindergarten teacher I could read because I wanted to be in the reading club so bad. But the book I “rememorized” was also a Dr. Suess book – Green Eggs and Ham. I find it so funny that I wasn’t the only one to ever do that! :)

  20. I had a similar thing happen as a child. I had a book read to me so frequently that I memorized it, my parents thinking I was a brilliant child prodigy, reading at age three, until they figured out I just knew what words went with the pictures.

    Now, onto the soup. Is it in bad taste for me to say you had me at meatballs? Because those meatballs – don’t gag – look good raw. And meat and Parmesan cheese combined together, well, I’m sorry, I’m just stuck on the meatballs.

  21. knitopia

    Looks good! Are the meatballs easy to break into smaller bites with a spoon?

    For another tasty wedding-related soup, see here and here (two variations on the same Turkish red lentil “bride” soup).

  22. SantaDad

    OK! Not to belabor a point, but it was “rememberizing.” When asked if you were really reading it, you replied, “I rememberized it.”

    Yes. I still think you’re cute …. sometimes….

  23. Betsy

    We make this soup frequently during the winter, I don’t use carrots, but it’s a great idea. I add about 1/2 tsp of grated lemon rind to meatball mix – it’s a wonderful sunny addition! Still snowing in Boston!

  24. Maggie

    This is a version of my family’s favorite soup. The recipe came from my aunt’s italian Grandmother-in-law. It always graces any holiday dinner table. We’ve always just called it escarole soup, though some years when escarole couldn’t be found it was made with spinach. And we use cubed mozzerella cheese instead of parmesan and bow tie pasta instead of orzo or ancini de pepe. And, we add in the chicken meat that was boiled to make the broth as well. The combo of the chicken and the meatballs makes it very hearty and fulfilling. I’m so glad to see this soup here. Most people have never even heard of escarole or this delicious soup made from it.

  25. Maggie

    Oops, I should pay better attention. We use parmesan cheese in the meatballs, for sure. But the cubed mozzerella is for dropping into the soup right before you eat it. It melts and gets a little stringy and makes a nice gooey, creamy addition to the rest of the soup.

  26. Maggie

    Also, you should cook the meatballs until browned before putting them in the soup. This can be done in the oven or in a skillet and can easily be done ahead of time and kept in the fridge. You get a much better texture and flavor that way and you cook off some of the fat that will make the top of the soup filmy. Sorry, I’ve totally geeked out on seeing this soup here. It’s one of my ultimate favorite dishes.

  27. Those photographs are stunning! Honestly, they are gorgeous. I’m so jealous, not only of your talent, but of your snow!

    The soup is wonderful too. I make this often, as did my mom, as did her mom. It has always been a staple in our family. I make my little meatballs with a mixture of veal and turkey. I also add cannellini beans sometimes, and I use acini di pepe pastina. It holds its shape a little better when you reheat the soup the next day.

  28. This is a great comforting soup to celebrate the snow! Your BW photographs are beautiful and show a New York winterland that I have never seen before. These should be printed larger , framed and hung on the wall. I’d buy one!

  29. Al T

    Thanks for the pics of Manhattan, b+w is a nice touch. You could sell those shots, yes. Thanks, too for your great work on the blog. From the Great White North.

  30. I admit it. I resent snow, purely because I hate winter. I even kind of resent the fact that your photos are so beautiful, because I find myself beginning to appreciate the snow and have to remind myself: ‘COLD, AARGH’. But… your photos are beautiful, haha.

    The soup looks gorgeous – just the sort of thing to make me feel better about winter ^__^

  31. Courtney

    How did you know I have been itching to make Italian Wedding soup? I haven’t had it in YEARS, and I think my husband would actually like it (he is kind of picky about soup).

  32. Jenya

    No escarole..? Not even endive? (not the heads of endive, the curly leafy endive)
    But how? You love bitter things and last I checked, swiss chard isn’t.

  33. ChristinaMason

    Funny. I made something similar last week to use up some kale that was borderline in the freshness dept.:

    Italian Wedding Soup

    2 c. soffrito (small-diced carrot, celery, onion)– about 2 lg. celery ribs, 2 medium carrots, 1/2 an onion
    olive oil for sauteeing
    2 bay leaves
    2 small cloves garlic
    1 tsp. Italian seasoning
    salt and pepper to taste
    dash seasoned salt
    32 oz. chicken broth
    lots of fresh chopped parsley
    dash of powdered bay leaf
    tsp. of minced rosemary and thyme
    3 cups fresh kale or curly endive, rinsed well and picked over

    In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, sautee the soffrito in a bit of olive oil. Reduce the heat and add the garlic, Italian seasoning and remaining spices, sautee just until fragrant—do not brown. Add the chicken stock and about 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil.

    Then make the meatballs:

    1 lb. mixed ground beef and veal (meatloaf mix also works)
    approx. 3/4 c. good unseasoned bread crumbs (I like Whole Foods fresh from the bakery)
    splash of milk– approx. 1/4 c.
    salt and pepper
    3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
    1 Tbsp. minced onion
    2 small cloves garlic, minced
    lots of parsley
    bit of Mrs. Dash
    lots of pepper and some salt
    1 tsp. Italian seasoning

    Form into nickel-sized meatballs by rolling in your palm and drop into the barely simmering broth. Add the kale to the broth. Stir gently.

    Then add:

    2 more med. carrots cut thick on the diagonal.

    Simmer uncovered for at least an hour.

    Serve over hot cooked pasta.

  34. Tea

    Only you could make winter so beautiful looking! I’m doing backflips that it’s freakin’ finally warming up around here, but your shots actually make me long for a little bit more cold. That first fountain shot is heartbreakingly lovely.

  35. You slip you slack you clock me you lack
    While I’m reading on the road by my man Jack Kerouac
    Poetry in motion coconut lotion
    I had to diss the girl because she got too emotional
    Are you experienced little girl
    I want to know what goes on in your little girl world
    Cause I’m on your mind it’s hard to forget me
    I’ll take your pride for a ride if you let me
    So peace out ya’ll I’m PCP so I’m out
    Full throttle to the bottle and full full clout
    And I’m out

  36. Suzanne M

    The book “Snow” was one of my favorites, too! Growing up in the NY suburbs, we would take fresh snow, put it in a pan and drizzle maple syrup on it. Mmmm. Now, I have to travel to the snow and my kids don’t get to have the experience of waking up to everything in white. Another favorite book was “Stone Soup”, which goes along with this post, too. We make that all the time, with whatever we have in the fridge/pantry, but generally without the stones. I love your blog!

  37. I did the same thing when I was younger- only I did it because I really hated reading so I would pretend I was! im actually rather pleased that I wasn’t around for the snow this past weekend…looked pretty chilly!

  38. Heather

    Ahhh – deliciousness. I was in a soup mood yesterday – made this and a lovely lentil with sausage – my family inhaled both. Of course we live in the armpit of Missouri, so couldn’t find kale OR escarole, so ended up with spinach. Still tasty and delicious, if not quite according to the recipe. Thanks!

  39. {I have a fun suggestion for your orzo. Toast it in a saute pan first, dry, as you might pine nuts or sesame seeds. Then continue on with the recipe. After having it like this once I can barely eat it pale and naked anymore…}

    ps. you are one of the only people to make me miss the snow in nyc. but only miss. I’m going to stay right here with the fruit blossoms exploding and rhubarb on the way!

  40. Celeste

    I adore IWS. I like the meatballs cooked ahead of time, though, and added back in at the end. The carrot seems like a really great addition; I love the mix of green and orange, and carrot is a natural with chicken broth. I will try this for sure!

  41. I love this soup and have been making it for several years now. It does turn into stoup the next day as the orzo soaks up most of the broth, but that’s no problem flavor-wise.

    In answer to Jennbec’s question and Deb’s speculation: I’m in the process of moving my blog over to wordpress, and the person doing my redesign just informed me today, in fact, that if you self-host on wordpress, the sky’s the limit for functionality, but that if you let wordpress host, there are many limitations. FWIW…

  42. Patti

    We made this last week, with kale instead of chard or escarole – my friend says kale looks like Henry Rollins in a tutu – and lots more carrots. It was wonderful, definitely a keeper! Thanks for sharing this one. :)

  43. Hey Deb! I have been wanting to make this soup for awhile and finally have a lot of the ingredients in my fridge with plans to make this for dinner tonight. =) I do have a quick question in regards to an ingredient substitution and wanted your opinion. I got some beautiful baby spinach from the farmer’s market this weekend and was wondering if I could use it in place of the escarole. Will it hold up as well in the soup? Or should I just stop on the way home and pick up some escarole?

    Thanks for your advice! LOVE love LOVE your blog. =)

  44. Diana T.

    Hi Deb, i just wanted to say that i just recently came across your site totally by random. And by my total surprise i became instantly addicted. I have made a few of your recipes and my husband and i are always really happy with the meal or occasional treat in the end. Well, now we are adding this one to our list of favorites. Thank you.

  45. Courtney

    I made this soup tonight, and it was absolutely delish! Next time I think I will start with more broth, though. The orzo really soaked it up. Also, I sauteed leaks and added them when I added the carrots. I think they left a really great flavor. Can’t wait to have the leftovers tomorrow! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

  46. Chrissy

    made this last night to bring to a couple who just miscarried. i saved some for myself and it was excellent – comforting and delicious. perfect for the occasion, especially after this blizzard.

  47. Joanna

    The wedding soup that I grew up on didn’t contain pasta but rather an egg/cheese mixture stirred into the soup at the end. Yours looks considerably healthier (and delicious!).

  48. Julia

    We just finished off this soup and were very disappointed with the meatballs. They just tasted too funky, off. I can’t quite describe it. Fresh turkey, too. We are going to try it with fish meatballs this weekend instead. Other than that it’s a great little soup. Comfort.

  49. Dana

    Hi Deb! I am new to your blog (i love love love it!) and I tried this out this weekend, delish! I loved it! And also you take the most beautiful photos!

  50. hykua

    this is also delicious with ground chicken (due to personal aversion to turkey). I didn’t understand why the carrots needed to cook so long and added them just before the escarole. thank you for this great recipe, as always.

  51. This was great! I had wanted to try this soup for a while and I’m glad I did. Since there was no escarole to be seen, I used swiss chard in its place. All worked out well.

    1. deb

      I’ve never really heard of a parmesan substitute (well, pecorino romano is often suggestion but if dairy is this issue, that’s not help). However, you can skip it.

  52. Nour

    Hi Deb,

    LOVE your website! Could I bake these turkey meatballs (similar to your chicken meatballs recipe), if I want them as an appetizer instead of in the soup?


  53. Kate

    So I started to make this but discovered we had no orzo midway through cooking. Whoops. Anyway, a wild rice medley from TJ’s filled in nicely. I also added some white beans. Loved it!

  54. Christa

    It is freakin cold outside and the husband and I wanted soup. This was soooo good! Thank you! I now have a belly full of soupy, noodly, leafy, meatbally goodness.

  55. sarah

    Just made this last night! I felt a bit silly because my store had no escarole, so I used spinach, and I’m trying to avoid pasta, so I used wild rice instead of orzo… so I didn’t even use the two major ingredients! I also swapped asiago for parmesan, since that’s all I had. But even all that considered, it was AMAZING! The meatballs, the broth, the combination of the greens and the meat and the starch. Perfect. Perfect perfect. And the wild rice at the bottom of the bowl was like a little pile of hidden treasure. You have never led me astray! Thank you!! <3 smitten kitchen :)

  56. Jules

    This soup was delicious! I used homemade chicken stock and baked the meatballs first, and hubs gobbled it up. Will def add to our soup rotations…thx!

  57. Beth

    I made a variant of this soup with kamut which I had leftover cooked in the fridge and savoy cabbage, with a few leftover pinto beans also. it was good!

  58. Marcia G.

    I just made this soup, with barley instead of orzo. It is divine! I made enough to stock up in my freezer, and am looking forward to getting through the winter months with it.

  59. Harriet and Emily

    AMAZING! We simmered parmesan rinds for about 30 minutes before adding the carrots and orzo. The result was fantastic– it really complemented the flavor of the meatballs.

  60. Gina Ann

    This is one of my favorite go to recipes on a chilly night. The only thing I add is a little fresh lemon zest in the meatballs, and I lightly sautee the escarole in virgin olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper (a little freshly grated nutmeg..yum) before adding the rest of the ingredients. The crushed red pepper really warms you up from the inside out and as an American/Italian I find a way to add fresh garlic to most of my dishes!

  61. “You know those stories about when you were a kid that your parents can’t get enough of? That they’d go on. And on. And on about to their friends, your friends, prom date and future in-laws? Because apparently, when you were little you were cute. I mean, really cute. And you did cute things. And those cute things were hilarious. And still are, nearly 30 years later.”

    Yes, and those stories for them are funny while for me is pretty embarrassing most of the time that when it happens, I can’t help but just walk away for a while and cool of a bit.

  62. brit

    I just made this today with my 3 year old son! How simple! Perfect way to spend a day in awaiting the arival of Hurricane Sandy. LOVE your blog. Stay safe!

  63. Emilie

    I’m making this for the second time tonight – it really is delicious! I can’t find ground turkey (mince here) so have used chicken (mince/ground), and spinach instead of escarole which I don’t think I’ve ever seen either :) A bit of extra garlic in the soup, it is light, warming, and the meatballs are so tender and yummy. It is definitely on my dinners list now.

  64. Jessica

    Made this tonight and it was delicious!! Will 100% make again. Super easy and flavorful– A+ I used chicory– is it the same thing? I think everyone has a great substitute.

  65. Too bad we don’t have escarole so I’ll just substitute lentils. The turkey meat is a refreshing twist instead of using the typical pork meatball. It’s more healthy and cost efficient esp after Thanksgiving or Christmas. The parmesan is a great idea too.

  66. Sarah L.

    I’m 5 years late, and it isn’t exactly the season but I found escarole at my local farmer’s market and that sealed the deal. Well well, the pics had me hooked and it was surprinsingly eeeeaaassssyyyyyy to make. Had no orzo so I substituted with Quinoa. IT IS A KEEPER!!!

  67. Maggie

    I linked here from your new chicken stock recipe, which I used to make this soup. Really delicious! Wegman’s sells bags of cut escarole and this was super easy to pull together. If you have time to make the meatballs and cut the carrot ahead of time, this is a very quick dinner.

  68. Lisa

    Just made this and am in fact enjoying it now – brilliant recipe! Didn’t find the escarole so I swapped with spinach, and luckily I caught your comment about adding spinach at the very last minute because it cooks quickly. The “weight” of the turkey meatballs is perfection and while I wasn’t sure if the broth would be tasty, it totally took on the flavor of the meatballs and parmesan. Perfect winter weeknight supper, thank you!

  69. Amanda

    DEB. Oh, Deb. I’ve just made this soup for the first time, and it is fantastic. Dare I say, the best soup there ever was. I even made mine with vegan “Chik’n” broth and gluten free orzo (I’m not really that pretentious, I swear – just trying some new things out) and it is truly amazing. THANK YOU for the best blog (and cookbooks) a girl could ask for. You make my weekend kitchen conquests utterly delightful!

  70. Diane

    I made this tonight coincidentally – very similar to yours but the recipe i had called for a half cup of grated parmesan mixed with a lightly beaten egg that you whisk into the soup at the end…..SOOOOO good. Love SK – your recipes are my go to!

  71. Maura

    I thought to myself, there’s no way a soup this simple can be anything to write home about. But I had a ton of escarole from my CSA to use up so I made a double batch. My husband and I can’t stop talking about it! I was skeptical that the turkey meatballs would be bland and get tough from cooking in the broth but they’re soft, pillowy, and packed with flavor. The soup is even better the next day when it’s had time to sit and marry for a while. I’m so happy we have the whole second batch in the freezer!! Thanks for another winner, Deb.

  72. I really like this soup. Been making it for years. After it sits overnight or a day or so the orzo keeps expanding and become very mushy. Do you have any suggestion to mitigate this? Thanks for all the inspiration.

    1. deb

      Mary Jo — As with chicken noodle soup, I know many people prefer to keep the noodles separate from the soup, just rewarm them together before serving.

  73. June

    Simple but delicious! Hubs loved it (he’s a soup guy) AND my toddler gobbled it up (had seconds!). Win all around. Subbed kale for the escarole and it worked wonderfully. Definitely going to be one of my future go-to soups!

  74. MR

    I have made this soup for over a decade and it is always a huge hit. Makes a fantastic gift for a friend with a cold or perfectly healthy. A big steaming bowl of this with decent bread and butter makes for a delightful lunch or dinner on a cold day. As others have noticed, unless the entire batch will be eaten immediately, it’s best to boil the orzo (to a couple of minutes less than al dente), strain it, and keep it separate. I’ve learned to spoon a serving’s-worth of the (slightly under-) cooked orzo into the bottom of each bowl and ladle the hot soup over it. The pasta warms up fast. If there are leftovers, store the orzo in a small jar or plastic container separate from the rest of the soup. Orzo (or alphabet noodles or other small pasta) goes berserk if allowed to soak up as much broth as it wants. Besides wasting the broth, it gets all weird. Think “dog, steak” or “toddler, cookies.”

  75. Sydney

    This was great and a nice light dinner. I threw a leftover Parmesan rind in the broth while it was boiling and subbed kale for escarole because that’s what I could find. Just missing a nice baguette for dipping!

  76. Cheryl

    Love this recipe! I made it with turkey meatballs and faro instead of orzo, and spinach instead of escarole, because that’s what I had or could buy in a hurry. My family asked for it again, and tonight I am making it with swiss chard and ground chicken meatballs.

  77. JAime Fanelli

    I made this, following all directions – but substituted turkey for beef (only because that’s what I had in the refrigerator). Absolutely delicious!

    1. bethberg

      Sarah, I made it tonight using a vegan “parmesan” recipe, and honestly, it didn’t taste any different than my regular meatballs! It added an additional savory element, but you can recreate it with a bit more salt and garlic, I think. I’ve never used cheese in my meatballs b/c of Kosher, and I wanted to see what I was missing…but I think it’s a-ok to just skip.

      1. Sarah Bartges

        Thanks so much Beth!! I too keep
        Kosher and am always wondering whether not having the dairy in the meatballs is going to be a game changer. However I’ve made other meatball recipes from Deb that were just fine without the dairy. I’m Definitely going to try this recipe now. I like your idea of nutritional yeast – I use it all the time but mostly as a topping for salads/sandwiches and not as part of a cooked dish. Will be a good experiment:)

  78. bethberg

    Same question! I want to keep it kosher. Maybe jusy skip it as a topping and add nutritional yeast into the meatballs? I’ve never used it, but i hear it tastes “cheesy”

  79. Laura

    My husband made this for dinner last night and it was ridiculously good and fairly easy to make. Everyone loved it–especially my toddler whose favorite food group is definitely meatballs. It’s a fairly light, but very warming for a cold winter’s night. We served it with garlic bread on the side and it made for a great dinner.

    We used homemade turkey stock and baby spinach as the greens in the soup. We also used dried parsley in the meatballs, which worked totally fine.

  80. Lauren

    Absolutely fab. Cannot believe how delicious the meatballs turned out & how easy they were to assemble. In the future I am going to double the meatball recipe so I can freeze some!

  81. Stephanie G

    Hi! I’m making this now (so excited for it!) but can’t for the life of me figure out the temp and cooking time for the meatballs. Perhaps it got axed with the update?

  82. Jake

    The Braille brand orzo I bought says it should be cooked for 9 min for al dente, but the recipe has it cooking for 23 min. Something isn’t adding up here.

      1. I threw them in halfway through the initial carrot cook time and it worked great. Cooking the meatballs from the freezer in the soup makes this a screaming-toddler, crying-baby, exhausted-momma combo approved recipe. Thank you!

        1. Susan

          I’m not fond of ground turkey. If I used ground beef would I add extra minutes or should I partially bake them in the oven first? Curious if it would add too much fat to the soup.

  83. Anna Stern Lipke

    I just wanted to ask you if the meatballs can be made without adding cheese.
    Alternatively, what can I subsitute for cheese?

    Thank you

    1. deb

      I definitely think that the cheese can be skipped. I know some people like to add some nutritional yeast to recipes instead of cheese, but haven’t tested it here.

  84. Sheryll

    I made this for us this evening after seeing a photo on your instagram feed a couple of days ago. It just looked so pretty that I had to make it. Mine came out just as pretty and it was scrumptious. We’re calling it our new chicken noodle soup. I did use ground chicken instead of ground turkey. And our choice of greens was rainbow swiss chard. Thanks for this wonderful, flavorful, and fast soup!

  85. June

    I just finished making this and didn’t have really high hopes. I had never used turkey meatballs in a soup. I added the Parmesan rinds and must tell you this soup is to die for! My Jewish grandmothers would be proud.
    Thanks for all your amazing recipes! So delicious!

  86. I came down with a cold yesterday, and although it was in the 90s in Tucson, I wanted some nice soup for dinner. This was perfect. I had a supply of frozen chicken carcasses on hand, and the pressure cooker made a hearty broth. The meatballs came together quickly and were wonderfully tender. I used mixed “super greens” instead of escarole. The kids ate it happily, my husband I had seconds, and I had a nice mugful for lunch today. Just what the doctor ordered!

  87. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. I made the chicken broth this weekend and houseguests coming on Thursday. Sounds like a perfect setup for your meatball soup. Marti

  88. Lisa

    I saw this recipe yesterday and went out today to get what I needed. It was wonderful. Even in sunny Tucson, I could almost pretend there was snow outside.
    Thanks for another great recipe.

  89. Sarah A Helseth

    Hi Deb,
    I got some arugula in my CSA box and was wondering if that could work as the greens in this soup. I’ve only ever had baby arugula so I’m stumped by how to use it! PS I adore you and tell everyone about your recipes :)

  90. David

    I just made this with kale and impossible burger for the meatballs and it was fantastic. I think it’s the perfect thing for the impossible meat texture and flavor! Thanks so much for a great recipe!

  91. Cate

    Hands down the BEST soup I’ve ever made. Even though I make it about once a month, I’m always surprised at how flavorful it is given it’s simplicity. If you haven’t tried this recipe out yet, you’re seriously missing out. I’m not kidding!!

  92. anne

    Has anyone used the baked chicken meatballs mixture in this soup? I usually make a big batch of those for snacks for the weekend, I was thinking I’d drop some 1 inch size into this soup, without the tomato paste on top, obviously.

  93. Ellie

    I looked through the “made this!” comments and didn’t see this yet: chill your meatball mixture in a piping bag, cut a large opening, pinch off little meatballs with fingers dipped in cold water directly into the pot. Easy peasy!

  94. Christina

    We made this soup back in February and then again in April to freeze for quick meals after our baby arrived in May. This was actually the meal I had before we went to the hospital to be induced! We used spinach and ground pork and loved it. I found even freezing the spinach and orzo wasn’t awful – of course the orzo texture was a little mushy on the reheat, but all things considered it wasn’t terrible, especially for meals to have on hand with a new baby. Making another big batch today for a couple dinners and freezer meals! My husband says this is one if his favourite meals, and it’s definitely our favourite soup; it’s so simple, clean, and deeply flavourful!

  95. Teresa

    I just made this tonight – one of the first cold nights in Michigan. Delicious – will be a staple this winter.
    Last week my daughter made your Bee Sting cake for my birthday – so wonderful I’m craving it!

  96. Linda

    I have a giant Leek that I don’t know what to do with. If I used pork instead of turkey for the meatballs could I add the leek to the broth?

  97. Bailey Bruns

    This was delicious! I realized as I started cooking that I only had 6 cups of broth. I added in two more cups of heavily salted water and the broth tastes good. I also used beef and added a few extra minutes to the cooking time. Also used baby spinach as mentioned in the follow-up comments. A wonderfully simple soup that I pulled together in 45 minutes.

  98. Jen

    This is my favorite soup. I love how easy and flavorful it is. I usually make a double batch of meatballs and freeze them (on a cookie sheet then pop into a ziplock once frozen) to make this even easier for a weeknight meal. I’m pregnant, in my first trimester, and this is really nice during a time when my morning sickness is awful. Let’s me get some veggies in!

  99. Lindsay

    I made this for dinner tonight, and am stopping in the middle of the meal to comment – that’s how good this soup is. I used arugula because that’s what I had on hand and threw a Parmesan rind in with the broth. This is perfect for a cold January evening. Thanks, Deb!

  100. Amy

    I made this recipe yesterday, following it pretty exactly except with elk meatballs instead of turkey. I read the comments in advance about maybe doing the orzo separately and adding it as needed to keep it from getting soggy, but I must not be that bothered by soggy pasta and I am kind of lazy, because I just went ahead and did it with the orzo in the pot. Today, as leftovers, it’s still all right, but if you want your pasta al dente you probably will want to do it separately….!

  101. Jenna

    This is so wonderful. My husband asked to put it in regular rotation based on how much our 1.5 year old loved it. We all three really enjoyed it. I loved that it was so flavorful and required really easy prep with ingredients I already had on hand! Deb saved dinner yet again (and lunch. Leftovers – Yasssss!). I did the orzo in the broth and didn’t mind the texture at all – I’m all for one pot! For greens, I chopped up a bag of Trader Joe’s “Power Greens” (kale, chard, spinach).

  102. Melissa

    I’ve made this twice now – it was great the first time, but the meatballs kind of oozed…. they made the texture of the broth a little weird. Did I do something wrong? This time I decided to bake the meatballs first (350 for 30 minutes – same amount of time called for chilling them!). It’s perfect for me! Broth is clear and light. The meatballs are self-contained. I’m happy! I’ll be making this again and again!

      1. Melissa

        No, it was a lean ground turkey. The “ooze” was kind of glutinous not fatty. Maybe the breadcrumbs? I used a different batch this time. I also made the meatballs larger than necessary, and the next time I make it will make them quite small. I’ll also try to find escarole. I’ve been using kale and really like that a lot, but want to try different greens. This soup is so, so good!

  103. Jennifer

    Made this delicious soup on a snowy February day. Used 1 lb of ground turkey, seasoned panko and Swiss chard. Totally delicious. Thanks again, Deb!

  104. Nina

    Made this tonight using spinach and tiny elbow pasta. It was absolutely delicious and perfect for a 12 degree night. The kiddo chomped it down, and my husband forgot to add any hot sauce. In my house, that’s a major victory!

  105. This hits the spot on a frigid, windy day! I used about a pound of ground chicken and omitted the parmesan. They freeze well and cook from frozen in about 10 minutes in boiling chicken broth.


    Perfect. Followed the recipe pretty much verbatim but I had baby spinach, not escarole so that’s what I used. I love the suggestion to keep the orzo separate. I have noticed that orzo seems to be even worse than normal pasta to turn into slimy little chunks when left in liquid a moment too long. We had this soup for lunch with open face tomato sandwiches on toasted sourdough. Yum!

  107. JP—Seattle

    I made this for the second time Thursday night. This time with ground chicken; didn’t have any herbs for the meatballs so added a smidge of dried oregano (next time I’ll go without). I added celery to the carrots, and then used an entire clamshell of (chopped) baby spinach. We added some pickled red onions I had leftover from another recipe at the end as a topper/garnish. This soup is so easy and so good. Next time, if I don’t have the herbs, I will add a little of whatever greens I’m using to the meatballs instead, as Deb suggests. Thank you!

  108. Anne Murphy

    Absolutely delicious. Made this with ground chicken exactly, but other than that – followed the recipe. Will definitely make this again.

  109. SavvySue

    Hello, Deb. I’ve been enjoying your emailed recipes for some time and just today discovered your YouTube channel.

    My q for u: I would like to prepare the meatball in advance for future use. At what point can they be frozen? I know that the spinach/escarole addition would come after defrosting, but don’t want to mess up the timing.

    Thanks, in advance, SavvySue

  110. Bev

    Hello. Suddenly I cannot see the “print” buttons on any of your recipes (on my iPad, newer model, up to date software). I have printed many in the past so I do know what to look for and where they are… any idea what could be going wrong? Thanks!

  111. Hamnah

    Hello this was excellent! I RARELY eat meat and could only find 1 lb packages of ground turkey and didn’t really want a leftover hunk of meat, so I used two eggs in stead of one, skipped the water and 1.33 times (roughly) the other meatball ingredients and can report back that it worked fine! Might have had some extra wisps of egg in the broth but that could have also been my sloppy ball-rolling and me letting my simmer look a bit more like a boil. In addition to a few other boring swaps, I also used a mix of chicken stock and Parmesan brodo and highly recommend :)

  112. RebaChan

    Oh Deb, this is so delicious! I was making a giant batch of chicken stock anyway so why not this soup?

    I used ground veal, a smidge of ground sage & “nootch” in the meatballs (like some others, I keep kosher — nutritional yeast is a good sub).

    I added the juice of one lemon just before serving, which always brightens the flavor of any broth-based soup. It may cloud your soup though.

    I was wanting a little more greens; next time, I’ll add another big handful.

    Nonetheless, a winner of a recipe!

  113. Toni McCormick

    Made this last night for dinner. Got to use up turkey stock & meat in the freezer. Even w doubling the amount of carrots & adding mushroom, onions to broth. I could have used more as it didn’t have the volume amount of Deb’s photo. Added a lot more herbs & spices (especially garlic) to soup & spinach. Still an easy winner w us. I like the farro idea–next time.

  114. Mint Te

    Made this tonight when feeling uninspired to cook. I used better than bouillon (veggie version) for broth and sautéed onions and garlic in the pot before adding broth. Used vegetarian meatless meatballs (just dumped in frozen at the same step noted above for meatball addition), and frozen spinach. added a few squeezes of lemon juice concentrate from a bottle and some red pepper flakes at the end.

    Husband proclaimed it to be “really very good!” And baby ate some. Toddler refused and are cheerios, per usual.

    1. deb

      It will keep but the bigger concern is that the pasta might keep absorbing. You can separate it, if you wish, so it doesn’t get too soft.

  115. Sarah

    I used this recipe as a jumping off point and it was SO good. I made vegetarian “meat”balls and added a bunch more veggies. I know I’ll be making this over and over again this fall/winter.

  116. Tara

    This was a hit on this snow day in upstate! Even my picky eater went for it with spinach in it. Working with what we had on hand, I used hot Italian turkey sausage for the meatballs and omitted the garlic. Delish. Thanks Deb!!

  117. Nicky Romes

    I’ve made this soup several times. It’s so delicious! We love the texture and taste of the meatballs. The soup base is so good. I have always used fresh spinach for the greens. A very comforting soup, and I make several soups.
    Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  118. Lena

    I made this soup just last night and I’m a bit disappointed. The soup was bland. It might be because of the fact that I switched out the ground turkey for ground pork, but I don’t think so. I briefly sauteed my kale stems and carrots with 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil before adding the chicken broth. And even added some dehydrated shallots to the broth and some lemon juice at the end for some extra “oomph.” But when it came to eating dinner, the flavor just wasn’t there. I may add some tomato paste and cannellini beans to this next time I make it.