Home made ground chicken = Italian Wedding Soup

chicken meatballs OR little soccer balls :P

I'm sure some of you already knew this, but I JUST had an epiphany today that I can make my own ground meat at home. I had an abundance of chicken breasts leftover from my sister's b-day dinner and since it's cold out, I thought I'd make some soup. Also since I gorged last night I thought I'd make a lighter meal.

Last night lobster made his famous ribs. Except this time he made them THE BEST EVERRR!!! He cooked them looooow and slooooow on his Big Green Egg for five hours. These were fall of the bone, lip smackin good. While we were stuffing our faces, the bones literally didn't have an ounce of meat on them b/c they literally just "fell off" into my tummy. It's times like these, I'm so glad I married him :)

Anyway, on to my recipe. This soup is GOOOOOD!!! This is the first time I've ever had Italian wedding soup and now I can see why it's such a popular dish. The original recipe called for ground turkey and chicken sausage but I used my food processor and grinded up 3/4 pound of chicken breasts. I just used 12 - 1 second pulses and voila, homemade ground chicken. Ground meat can be so expensive at supermarket and now I never have to buy it again...YAY! Since chicken is so lean it can tend to be tough and dry but these were so moist. I also discovered how much leaner a ground chicken breasts are then ground turkey. It's amazing, when you bake these in the oven the chicken literally renders no fat. Now that I found this new method, I can't wait to make other things. Chicken burgers, chicken kabobs. Oooh, I may have to try to make a huge ground chicken patty, cut it up then throw it in a salad.

I used Ina Garten's recipe as a reference but made my own changes along the way. So the following recipe is my version. For the meatballs I'm sure if you substituted dried herbs it would be fine, but you MUST use fresh dill for the soup. It really gives the soup a fresh, clean taste and is the final component to finishing the dish. Also, if you can find rosemary bread to make the breadcrumbs, I would highly recommend it b/c it gave the meatballs so much flavor. If not, I would finely mince a tablespoon of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp of dried and add that to the meatballs. This soup was supposed to last us a couple days but it was so good it only lasted one meal. Nummmmm.

Italian Wedding Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten
Makes 3 servings

For the meatballs:
3/4 pound ground chicken breast
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used rosemary bread and grinded them in the food processor)
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tbs grated onion
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons of freshly minced thyme
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
1 egg white
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup diced carrots, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup diced celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
5 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
6 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, garlic, parsley, thyme, Parmesan, egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl and cover with milk. Grab breadcrumbs and squeeze out all the milk then put in bowl with the meat.
Grate an onion on the side of a box grater (like you would grate cheese) then put into the meat mixture.
Make a small test patty on a skillet and check to see if the meatballs are seasoned to your liking.
With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 16-20 meatballs) Bake for 25 minutes, until cooked through. (You can tell they're done when you touch them and they bounce back) Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan if desired.