Minestrone Primavera with Chicken Meatballs
1 pound ground chicken
1 to 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
For the Soup:
2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, thoroughly rinsed and cut into ¼-inch rounds
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
1 quart (4 cups) water
2 cups baby carrots, peeled and cut into half-inch rounds
1 ½ cups d’italini pasta (or any mini-sized noodle)
1 ½ cups (12 to 15 stalks) fresh asparagus, blanched and chopped into one-inch pieces, ends removed
1 ½ cups (about 15 to 20) fresh green beans, blanched and chopped into one-inch pieces
2 cups baby spinach, packed
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish
In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, breadcrumbs (starting with one cup), minced garlic, chives, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper until well mixed. If the mixture is too sticky, gradually add more breadcrumbs until easy to handle. Roll the mixture into half-inch balls (makes about 45 to 50 small balls).
Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat and cook meatballs until golden-brown all over, about 3 to 4 minutes. The meatballs will finish cooking in the soup, so transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
In the same pot, add the leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in the carrots and pasta and cook at a gentle simmer until pasta is almost al dente (still a bit firm), about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the meatballs, whole asparagus and whole green beans and simmer until carrots are tender, pasta is al dente and meatballs are cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. To keep asparagus and beans firm, remove after 2 minutes and return to soup just before serving.
Add the spinach and parmesan cheese and cook for about a minute until Parmesan melts and spinach just begins to wilt. Chop the blanched asparagus and green beans into one-inch pieces and add to soup. Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese in the center.
- Save top and bottom parts of the leek and freeze for later use to make stock.
- Use any fresh or slightly stale bread to make your own fresh breadcrumbs, using a food processor to finely grind.