{recipe} Escarole, White Bean & Meatball Soup

January 11, 2011

White Bean Escarole Soup

I used to say that I don’t like soup. No joke. It isn’t like I’ve never had a spectacular soup. I’ve had my mind blown by a perfect tom kha gai (Thai coconut chicken soup). Been stunned—in a good way—by the depth of flavor of a simple Turkish mint and red lentil soup. And have felt joy sipping a warming bowl of Greek avogolemono, my Greek grandmother’s egg-lemon chicken soup.

So, yes, I get that soup can be sublime. But it’s hard to get the good stuff. And, even for a good cook, harder to make. Plus, I think of soup as being time consuming to make and, ultimately, not very satisfying. But two of my recent soups—Coconut Chickpea Soup with Lemongrass and Roasted Squash and Apple Soup—have helped me see the light. In both cases, I was impressed with how much flavor I was able to cultivate in a short amount of time. And also at how satisfying both soups were.

Maybe I like soup after all.

I think that whether or not a soup is filling for me has something to do with texture. Both the coconut chickpea and squash and apple soups are thick, creamy andfilling. So when I decided to make soup again, I started thinking creamy. Potato leek? Nah. Sweet Potato? Not in the mood. Cauliflower? Delicious, but we’ve been eating a lot of Mashed Cauliflower with Brown Butter.

I did have some escarole and the ingredients to make my Easiest Classic Meatballs. (Don’t they look yummy!)


I wasn’t convinced that a broth-based soup would be—there’s that word again!—satisfying, but I figured meatballs would go a long way to help. So I got to work.

This wholesome soup totally hit the spot. Though I must admit that I still prefer the creamy soups (I’m telling you, it’s a texture thing for me!), I loved this. It made a perfect dinner with crusty bread and some good cheese. And, most importantly, it got high marks from the boys.

You’ll get best results if you use homemade chicken stock—that’s what I did—but you can use low sodium boxed broth if you must. If you use a packaged broth and have the time, allow the broth to simmer for at least 30 minutes with a few carrots, stalks of celery, a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. If you don’t have time, don’t worry. The broth will develop a nice flavor while the meatballs simmer.

Also, if you have a rind of parmesan cheese on hand, throw that in, too. I know it sounds strange, but I store the rind of my parmesan in the freezer instead of throwing it away. It’s a great way to add flavor to anything that you simmer for a while, like soup, stew or red sauce.

So, here you go, another soup from One Hungry Mama. Another delicious, quick dinner soup. A soup that satisfies, even. Enjoy!

White Bean, Escarole and Meatball Soup
can be shared with kids 6+ mos*

my Easiest Classic Meatballs
olive oil
1/3 c cubed thick cut pancetta
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 heads escarole, cleaned and chopped
2 15-oz cans white beans
4 c broth
parmesan rind, optional
grated parmesan

1. Saute pancetta with a drizzle of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. When it begins to brown around the edges, add garlic and red pepper flakes.

2. When garlic is fragrant, add escarole. Saute until the greens wilt and turn bright green. If the oil and fat from the pancetta have cooked off, add 1/3 cup of broth to keep the greens from burning.

3. Add beans and saute for five minutes before adding all of the broth. If you’re including meatballs, add them too (they should be browned, but not all the way cooked through). And, if you have a leftover rind of parmesan cheese, add that, as well.

4. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and all of the flavors have come together. Serve while hot, sprinkled with grated parmesan!

*Note: Puree soup, either with or without meatballs, for kids 6+ mos who cannot yet manage chunks. Soft cooked beans and age-appropriate pieces of meatball both make great finger foods!

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