Thursday, January 14, 2021

Turkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Orzo #soup #recipes

From Mary Jane Maffini

Up here, we are in the middle of a dreary January with more to come.  Brrr.

I look out the window and see plenty of reason to bundle up and a challenge to staying cheerful.  Right now, we need meals that will be nourishing for body and soul. Food that will make us feel good and happy.  We find this soup does the trick. We first tried it two years for a social event (double batch) and last year everyone who’d been at that event wanted it again. It is based on a New York Times recipe with a few tweaks to suit us. You can make small or large quantities and you can freeze the meatballs to speed things up later. It is made of simple, healthy ingredients and tastes, looks and smells great.  Full disclosure: I rolled those meatballs while watching TV.  

I hope you will drop in later and let us know your favorite soup or whatever warms your heart in the winter. 


2 slices whole wheat bread – a day or two old

1/4 cup milk

1 large egg

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (and more for serving – see below)

1 pound lean ground turkey

1 1/2  tsp coarse salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley – can use dried

2 tbsp (or so) chopped fresh chives – can use dried

½ tsp hot Paprika or ¼ tsp cayenne (not shown - but added at the right time for a bit of flavor)

2 tbsp olive oil (or more if needed)

8 cups chicken or turkey stock – preferably home made – but good quality purchased is fine too.

1/2 cup orzo pasta – you can use other pasta but orzo absorbs a LOT of flavor

6 ounces (or so) spinach, with any long stems removed – frozen is fine!

¾ - 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese for serving


Using a food processor, turn bread into soft crumbs.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, milk, egg, Parmesan, turkey, salt, pepper, paprika or cayenne and parsley and chives. With a clean hand, work the mixture until it is well blended.

With wet hands, shape into small meatballs (about two teaspoons).  We have tried small and medium and overall prefer the smaller.  This should make about 2 ½ dozen meatballs

If you want to freeze some or all, place the rolled meatballs on a baking sheet and freeze uncooked until firm. 

When frozen, transfer the meatballs to a plastic freezer bag. You can defrost them overnight in the refrigerator before cooking. 

In a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When it is hot, add a batch of meatballs and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until they are browned on the bottom. Watch heat because they burn easily! I think the Parmesan cheese is the culprit.  

Turn and cook 2 minutes more, until browned on the other side. Remove from the pan.  The meatballs will not be cooked through and will need to continue cooking in the soup – so no sneaking any.    

Cook the remaining meatballs in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same way.

Heat the stock in a pot that is big enough for the soup and all the meatballs, the pasta and spinach. Bring stock to a boil. Add the meatballs and orzo. Lower the heat, and cover pan.

Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the meatballs and orzo are cooked.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook 2 minutes more, until spinach is wilted.

Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan.


Mary Jane Maffini is the award-winning author of three and a half mystery series: the Camilla Maffini mysteries, the Fiona Silk capers and the Charlotte Adams mysteries – number six coming soon!  The Charlotte Adams books have recently been optioned for television films. Details to come when they can be made public. With her daughter Victoria Maffini, MJ collaborated on The Book Collector Mysteries as Victoria Abbott. Victoria Abbott spent several happy years on Mystery Lovers Kitchen. MJ  is very glad to be back and Victoria is waving at you all!

Don't forget to check out MJ's Canadian books:  Camilla MacPhee features a fortyish widowed lawyer who runs an advocacy agency for victims of violent crime, in Ottawa, Canada's capital city. Life would be easier if she didn't have the world's worst office assistant, the world's bossiest sisters and, arguably, the world's greatest stubborn streak. If you like your mysteries a bit edgy with a side order of humor, these could be for you.  

Keep up on the news!  You can sign up for updates about MJ and Victoria plus fun and prizes through our newsletter HERE 


  1. What a heartwarming winter soup, Mary Jane. It reminds me of the Italian Wedding Soup my Aunt Mary would make for our family every Sunday (no nuptials needed). And freezing the meatballs (as you suggest) is exactly what she did to prep in advance. Thank you for sharing the recipe and the beauty of winter in your lovely photo. Peace. ~ Cleo

    1. Thanks, Cleo! Our Italian side doesn't have that tradition of the wedding soup, so I feel we've missed out, but now we're 'on it'. Hugs.

  2. Welcome back. Thank you for sharing this recipe. On cold winter days I love to make veggie chili and stew
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    1. Thanks, Lori! Both of those are excellent meals! I love chili and my husband loves stew and it's time I made some of each. Hugs.

  3. We have made a similar soup. Hubby loves meatballs. Thanks,

  4. My favorite is the corn soup recipe I got from a neighbor.

    1. Corn soup sounds great, Alicia. Fun to swap recipes with friends and neighbors too! Hugs.

  5. My granddaughter love meatball/Italian Wedding soup. We often pick some up from the local Rotelli's. I confused the guy last time by asking for "meatball" soup, rather than Italian Wedding! We managed to straighten it out in the end.
    Making you own you can be sure to get plenty of meatballs in each bowl. Portions that are skimpy on them are so disappointing!

    1. Right you are, Libby! We are all about the meatballs here. No skimping. Hugs.

    2. Making this tomorrow.

  6. This looks both hearty and healthy! I love soup, so it's hard to choose a favorite, but I'm partial to Asian noodle soups in general (pho, ramen, udon, almondigas, lomi, etc.)

  7. This sounds like a great warm up winter soup. Just what we need when we come in from shoveling snow. I can't wait to give it a try. Thank you. lrj