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Green Italian Wedding Soup

A parmesan rind in the broth gives it extra richness.

“This springy soup has all of the satisfying qualities of the original, but with more nutrients from added vegetables, tender dark meat chicken meatballs, and barley for extra fiber,” says Denver-based recipe developer Julia Heffelfinger. “A dollop of pesto right before serving give the soup added depth.”

Serves 6

Also in this series: Chilled Pea Soup and Spring Lettuce Soup

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground dark meat chicken
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup panko or dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons basil leaves, finely grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 spring onions or large scallions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more for garnish
  • 10 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1 small Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 6 cups escarole, chopped
  • ¼ cup packed torn basil leaves
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 cups zucchini noodles
  • 6 tablespoons pesto

Directions

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs. Using a tablespoon, measure and form the meatballs into one-inch balls; transfer to the prepared baking sheet. You will have about 20 meatballs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  2. In a large pot, warm one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the spring onions, season with salt, and cook until tender, but not browned, about five minutes. Add the garlic and ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic is softened, about one minute. Add the stock, quick-cooking barley, parmesan rind, a generous pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the barley is just tender. Add the meatballs and cook over medium-low heat without stirring until the meatballs float to the surface, about five minutes.

  3. Add the escarole, cover, and cook until wilted, about five minutes more. Stir in the basil and lemon juice and season with salt. Discard the parmesan rind.

To Serve

  1. Divide the zucchini noodles evenly into shallow bowls. Ladle the soup over the zucchini. Finish each bowl with a dollop of pesto, a sprinkle of crushed red pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.