Mini Meatball and Orzo Soup is a cozy bowl of savory broth with Italian sausage meatballs and orzo pasta.
I went to Philadelphia last weekend for a quick visit with some good friends from college. It snowed about 8 inches in Kansas City so my flight out of town was delayed. Landed late in Chicago in a steady shower of snow. Flight delayed. Finally got to Philadelphia and it was snowing there! Winter travel is no joke. I had a great trip but all that snowy weather and travel meant that when I got home, all I wanted to do was curl up in front of the fire with a bowl of soup. Molly and Clara have been declaring soups with pasta “the best dinner ever” lately, and I’ll do just about anything to win such high praise from the four-year-olds. This soup is not only filling, it’s fast. It uses what I now call cheater’s meatballs. Cheater’s meatballs are made just from Italian sausage rolled into balls and seared in a pan – no added seasonings needed.
How to Make Italian Sausage Meatballs
Italian sausage, purchased from the butcher / meat counter is already seasoned and full of flavor. Look for Italian sausage that is finely ground and looks similar in texture to ground beef or pork. If the sausage is too sticky / loose to easily roll into balls, add some breadcrumbs (Italian breadcrumbs or panic breadcrumbs will work). Roll the sausage into balls using anywhere from a rounded 1 tsp to rounded 1 Tbsp for each ball. (For this soup, aim on the smaller side.) Line the meatballs up on a sheet pan or cutting board and then sear on all sides in a skillet with some cooking oil over medium-high heat.
Mini Meatball and Orzo Soup Ingredients
- Italian Sausage – As noted above, look for Italian sausage that is similar in texture to ground beef or pork. It comes in mild or spicy varieties, so look for the version that fits with your spice preference.
- Chicken Stock – Because Italian sausage can be salty, use a low sodium chicken stock or broth for the base of the soup. Store-bought or homemade chicken stock will work.
- Orzo Pasta – This small rice-shaped pasta cooks fast. Any other small pasta shape will work.
Make-Ahead / Freezer Instructions
This soup can be made ahead. Prepare the soup without the pasta. Then refrigerate or freeze.
When ready to serve, boil the orzo pasta until tender. Drain pasta and divide between serving bowls. Reheat soup and pour over top of the orzo pasta.
- Dutch oven – I make most soups in a Dutch oven – either this Le Creuset Dutch Oven or this Calphalon Nonstick– Both work great for searing the meatballs and then simmering the soup.
- Ladle – This is the sort of soup for which a deep ladle is the perfect tool. You want each ladle-full of soup to include some meatballs and some pasta.
- Citrus Reamer– I love this super straightforward tool for juicing citrus so much that I use it as a prop in food photos! A squeeze of lemon juice adds fresh flavor to soups and makes the other ingredients pop.
- 12 oz Italian Sausage, rolled into 1-inch balls (see note)
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 small Onion, chopped
- 10 oz Carrots, sliced into rounds
- ½ tsp Oregano, dried
- ⅔ cup Orzo pasta
- 5 cups Chicken Stock
- 1 tsp Lemon juice
- Chopped parsley, for serving
- Grated Parmesan Cheese, for serving
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add olive oil and then meatballs. Cook meatballs, stirring every couple minutes, until browned on all sides, ~5 minutes total. Transfer meatballs to a paper-towel lined plate.
- To the heated Dutch oven, add onion and carrots. Saute until onions are starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add oregano and orzo pasta and saute for 1 minute.
- Pour chicken stock into pan and bring to a simmer. Add meatballs back to soup.
- Simmer soup until carrots and pasta are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Squeeze lemon juice into soup. Taste and season with some salt and pepper.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Top bowls with parsley and cheese.
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While I was off traveling, Frank and the girls had a Daddy-Daughter weekend. I’m told it included lots of playing in the snow and hot chocolate with marshmallows.