Monday, February 24, 2014

Tortellini Soup with Meatballs

My daughter's television watching consists of a couple hours of Food Network a week (and an hour of Psych, but we won't mention that - they're on their last season and she's crushed). She doesn't have time for any more than that, between working two jobs and playing in two symphonies! But she adds to her Food Network addiction by buying their magazine.

I love this addiction - after all, I get to read the magazine, too! And they always have such fabulous recipes.

Their version of this recipe, Meatball-Tortellini Soup, was in the January issue. I tweaked it to please our family, so what you're getting is the amended version. (If you want to see the original, go here.)

So what's so great about this soup?

First of all, it's quick.
Second, it's easy.
Third, it's delicious!
Fourth...well, you'll have to wait until the end for that one.

So here's how you do it.

Start with one pound of quality ground beef.

You could also use ground turkey, but I like the texture of the beef in these meatballs. Especially when it's the last, the very last, pound of good South Dakota grass-fed ground beef from the "half-of-a-half" we purchased last March. And we only had this one because it was hiding in a corner of the freezer. I thought we had run out in November!

(I ordered some more on Saturday. Things are looking up!)

In a large bowl, beat 2 large eggs. Add in your ground beef (or turkey), 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 Tablespoons dried parsley, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix with your hands - just until it's all combined - and then form the mixture into 1-inch balls.

Wynter would NEVER consider stealing meatballs off the kitchen counter....

....this guy, on the other hand, wouldn't think twice. Do you see how innocent he seems? He's just waiting for someone to leave the room!

Oh, and a side note - notice the unfinished floor behind the dogs. We're still working on it!

Okay. You have your meatballs ready, so take a large pot (I use my 8 quart stock pot) and heat up a couple tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. I use refined coconut oil (I want the medium chain fatty acids in my food), or you can use olive oil. Add your meatballs - gently, because they're quite fragile at this stage - and cook until they're browned on all sides.

Take them out and let them drain on a clean paper towel. They aren't quite done cooking yet, so don't be concerned if the meat doesn't look done.

Notice how the meatballs are NOT all uniform and round.
They taste better that way, right?

While your meatballs are cooking, prepare some celery and carrots. 

You'll need 3 carrots and 3 stalks of celery. Dice them fine so they cook up quickly.

After you remove the meatballs from the pan, add another tablespoon of oil, and then add the celery and carrots. Keep the heat at medium-high.

Do you see all that brown stuff in the bottom of the pan? That's from the meat. That is what is going to give your soup the special savory goodness all chefs want in their soups!

Stir the veggies, and scrape up the brown crusties at the same time. Let them get all cozy, tasty and friendly. Stir some more, cook some more, until the veggies start to soften - about 5 minutes.

Now add 2 quarts chicken broth and 1 quart (4 cups) water.

This is 1 quart of broth - you'll need two of these.

When you add the liquid, be sure to scrape up the remaining crusties from the bottom of the pan. You want that rich goodness in your soup! (And it makes the pot easier to clean.)

Bring the soup to a boil, and once it's boiling, add the meatballs back in. Simmer for about 4 or 5 minutes to cook the meatballs thoroughly.

Next, add some refrigerated tortellini (1 9-ounce package), and cook until the tortellini rise to the surface of the broth.

For the last touch, add about 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach to the soup, and let simmer for another few minutes before serving.

The final step: salt to taste.

Serve with more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Add some fresh bread and a salad, and you have a great winter-time supper :)

Oh, and the fourth great thing about this recipe? It's less than 500 calories per serving. How can you beat that?

Didn't we all love the peek at spring our GAL Julie gave us over the weekend? And don't we all have spring fever now?

But don't be fooled. It isn't spring here, yet! As I overheard a guy say on Saturday (in the middle of a snowstorm), "Get used to it, folks. It's February in South Dakota. It's still winter!"

We just had to laugh. Yup. It's still winter here :)

Here's the recipe all in one place:

Tortellini Soup with Meatballs 
(serves 8)

2 eggs
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 Tablespoons oil

3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, peeled and diced
2 quarts chicken broth
1 quart water

9-ounce package refrigerated cheese tortellini
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach
additional Parmesan cheese

Make meatballs: combine eggs (beaten), meat, cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Divide into 1-inch balls.

Cook in 2 Tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until all sides are browned.

Remove the meatballs, and add the diced carrots and celery, along with the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add meatballs. Cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

Add refrigerated tortellini and cook until tortellini floats.

Add spinach and cook for an additional few minutes.

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.


  1. Jan, I love this soup and I've forgotten to make it!!! You've reminded me and Dave will LOVE YOU FOREVER!!!!!! This is one of my fave soups and in my smart time I'll make the meatballs up ahead of time and freeze them.... and then I've got them ready for the soup so it's a quick fix. But when I've got a Saturday writing day, this is the perfect thing to have brewing! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I worked at a Greek restaurant where the owner's wife would STAND BEHIND the waitresses making sure that each customer only got one tiny meatball in a CUP of soup and two in a BOWL of soup.... Now here's the catch, they held exactly the same amount of soup, but you paid .50 more for the bowl.... :) One meatball. That's like a TEASE..... Oh, I'm happy dancing with this great recipe and reminder!!! Thank you again!

    1. We loved this soup when I made it, even though a couple of the boys turned up their noses at the spinach :)

      But I think it's the perfect blend of textures and flavors.

      I love the story of the Greek restaurant! I can just see the owner's wife counting each meatball. :)

  2. sounds yummy! and beef! yeah! (though not sure I'd wanna see my name printed on a package of ground meat LOL!)
    was gonna fix white chicken chili(have this box of seasoning) but think I'll put it off until Wed or Thurs night when I'm off - or make this instead! - The plan was to make and freezer part but realized my freezer is a bit, um, packed I guess is the word so I think these 2 night shifts I'll try to eat some of the sloppy joe stuff I froze last month and make space for leftover chili.

    I may have to cut this one in half - only have 4 cans of chicken broth and not sure how it'd freeze with the pasta stuff (I've seen that stuff but never knew what to do with it LOL!) I also found a pkg of ground turkey in the freezer (ok actually it found me when it fell out on my foot...)but I'm more of a beef girl and think I'll use the turkey in something else or maybe make some of these up with the turkey and see how they do.


    1. When I went to pick up the meat from the processor last spring, I was a little startled when I saw my name on the labels!

      Isn't soup/stew/chili the best thing for a cold night? And yes, you can easily cut this recipe in half. I actually doubled the original in all my tweaking.

  3. I love this kind of soup too Ruthy. Wedding soup is practically an institution in my hometown, so I'm glad to have a recipe now. Thanks Jan! Watch that ground turkey on your foot Suzy!

    1. This soup is so easy to make - I was surprised! And I love Ruthy's idea of making the meatballs ahead of time to make it even more convenient.

    2. :-) found our 'rolls' um meat, um, do what they say - roll! they also kinda bounch and they feel a lot heavier frozen!

  4. Miss Wynter does look prim and proper but I wonder what would happen if a certain furry gentleman actually managed to get a hold of some of those meatballs? Would Wynter partake of stolen goods? Or would she remain stoically steadfast? :-)

    1. Good question, Kav!

      I think she'd default to the "it's no longer on the forbidden counter, so now it's fair game" rule :)

  5. Soups are my all time favourite choice for a meal and this just made my mouth water! My DIL made Dutch Wedding Soup not long ago which was such a treat. This looks like a great recipe... quick 'n easy 'n tasty, and that's always the best on busy days.

    (I don't believe for a moment that those innocent faces weren't put on for the benefit of the camera. My Lab doesn't steal food either, but I wouldn't like to tempt him by leaving fresh-cooked meatballs at nose height when I leave the room.)

    1. LOL, Carol! I don't trust Wynter that far - I never left the room!

  6. Why, Jan! You little secret Italian you! This looks marvelous.

  7. Ok, this looks like something I've been craving. I didn't know until you made it, though!