Order a plate of spaghetti and meatballs in Italy and you’ll likely leave your waiter dumbfounded, scratching his head for an answer. That’s because one of America’s favorite Italian dishes is a purely American invention, one that generally hinges on our typical tenets of excess. In Italy, polpettine are more likely to be enjoyed in a lighter fashion, either by themselves or in a soup like the one below. The pasta is still there (albeit a much smaller portion of it), but the broth houses a handful of stellar vegetables and serves to keep the meatballs moist and luscious. Though it’s light in calories, this is still a potent bowl of goodness—served with a lightly dressed salad, it makes for an incredible weekday dinner.
Makes 6 servings
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 head escarole, chopped into bite-size pieces
¾ cup small pasta, like orzo, pastina, or spaghetti broken into ½-inch pieces
1 lb ground beef
2 medium eggs or 1 extra-large egg
¼ cup bread crumbs
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
½ Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
14 g fat (5 g saturated)
690 mg sodium
How to Make It
Combine the beef with the eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, and good-size pinches of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Being careful not to overwork the mixture, lightly form it into meatballs roughly ¾-inch in diameter, a bit smaller than a golf ball.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the escarole and bring the soup to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and add the meatballs and pasta. Simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and the pasta is al dente. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Serve the soup with extra cheese on top.