1 lb ground chicken
1/3 cup (loose) chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
1 small bulb fennel (bulb and stalks sliced)
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, sliced into quarter moons
64 oz chicken stock
4 oz fresh baby watercress
1/3 cup tubetti (or other small pasta)
freshly ground black pepper
for the meatballs:
Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together all the meatball ingredients. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place on the lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes, flip and bake for 4 minutes more. Remove from the pan and use immediately or cool and refrigerate up to one day.
for the soup:
Saute the garlic, parsnips, fennel, celery, and onion, until the onion is translucent and the parsnip is softened. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the meatballs.
If your meatballs were made ahead of time and are cold, simmer until warmed through before adding the pasta. If they are fresh from the oven, add the pasta and cook until nearly al dente. Stir in the watercress, salt, and pepper. Allow the watercress to wilt. Serve immediately.
If you are planning on saving leftovers, make the pasta separately and add it to each bowl when serving. Store leftovers separately and add it when you go to reheat the soup.
My thoughts:After making this soup, I realized it had more than a passing relationship to Italian Wedding Soup. Don't know how that happened! I was trying to use up the bag of watercress I had in my fridge and the ground chicken I had bought for another dish before our oven "incident". The good news is that, if you like Italian Wedding Soup, you will most likely like this soup!
It really is super flavorful yet super simple. For some reason when it comes to soup, I always feel like it is a lot of work. It really isn't! I didn't grow up making homemade soup and my husband is the type of person who when he makes matzah ball soup starts with a whole, raw chicken and takes all day to make one bowl of soup so I think that really contributed to it. However, if you are willing to use a box of stock or have frozen your own, you can have fresh soup in like 40-ish minutes. I made the meatballs in the morning and refrigerated them so at dinner time, everything came together really quickly.
Parsnips are really underutilized in soup, they are very earthy yet have a subtle sweetness. I love fennel and for this soup, I didn't just use the bulb at the end, I sliced up those stalks and tossed in the fronds. The stalks have a sort of celery-like texture and it's a shame most recipes call for tossing them. They are on the tough side but in a bowl of soup, that isn't an issue at all. I'm trying really hard not to waste ingredients so using the stalks is perfect. I love watercress very much. It's got a peppery bite to it and it is surprisingly versatile. It really holds it's shape when added to hot soup which really added a lot of texture interest to the soup. I still hate fall and winter but this soup makes it a little bit better.
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