Sunday, January 18, 2009

Healthy Italian Wedding-Style Soup with Barley, Greens & Turkey Meatballs for Souper Sunday

It's Souper Sunday time again, time for good soups and good company. My soup this week is a way to use up leftovers and is inspired by Italian Wedding Soup. (If you aren't familiar with this soup there is an explanation here). I have enjoyed this soup a few times before and while I am no expert on it, it is basically a broth based soup usually with little meatballs made of beef or pork, escarole or spinach and small pasta. Some versions may have bread, egg or cheese mixed in to thicken the soup. It's always good (They had me at little meatballs!), but not all that healthy; so with my goals in mind, a pound of ground turkey and some spinach and kale that needed to be used up, I decided to make a non-traditional but much healthier version. 

In addition to the turkey and greens, I upped the nutritional power of the soup by swapping out the pasta for some hulled barley. Barley, especially hulled, which has only the very outermost husk removed, is an exceptionally healthy grain with tons of fiber, selenium and is also a good source of other minerals. (You can find lots of info about it here). In addition to the barley, the turkey is a great source of protein, spinach provides calcium, iron and vitamin A, and kale is chock full of vitamins K, A & C. This soup is packed with good health and is delicious to boot. (And did I mention the little meatballs!?!)

Healthy Italian Wedding-Style Soup with Barley, Greens and Turkey Meatballs
Recipe by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 6-8 servings)

Soup Base:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, white and green parts, chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery
2 Tbsp thyme leaves
3 gloves garlic, minced
12 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup barley (par-boiled pearl or hulled--see note below)
turkey meatballs (see recipe below)
2 cups baby spinach 
1 cup kale, center stem removed, leaves chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks, scallions, carrots and celery and saute until vegetables soften, (about 5 minutes). Add thyme leaves and garlic and cook about 2 minutes more. Add chicken stock, bay leaves and barley (see note below) and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes on low. Remove lid, turn up heat to medium-high and carefully add meatballs. Cook for 10 minutes, until meatballs are mostly cooked through. Add spinach and kale and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a small bit of grated Parmesan cheese. 

Barley Cooking Notes: Depending on the type of barley you use it can take from 20 to 40 minutes (pearl) to upwards of an hour (unhulled) and it absorbs a lot of the cooking liquid so I find that it can be helpful to partially cook the barley in water first, for about half of the total cooking time for your particular barley, then finish it up in the soup broth so it still absorbs some of the flavors. For this soup, I cooked my hulled barley for 35 minutes before adding it to the soup. If I had used pearl barley, I would have cooked it about 20 minutes, then added it to the soup.

(Makes about 4 dozen meatballs)

1 lb ground turkey breast
1 small onion, grated or pureed in food processor
1 scallion grated or pureed in food processor
2 cloves garlic, grated or pureed in food processor
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 large egg and 1 egg white
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix together with your hands.  Make sure all ingredients are combined but don't over mix. Form small (about 1 1/4" meatballs) and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate  until ready to add to soup. 

Notes/Results:  Delicious!  Chock full of taste and different textures, I was very happy with how it turned out. The barley had a nice nutty chewiness, the meatballs were tender and the soup was really flavorful. It's hearty, each serving has 6-8 meatballs and plenty of other good stuff but it isn't too heavy. I served it with about a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese and a piece of whole grain bread.  Healthy, good, satisfying and fun to eat (with all those cute little meatballs), I would happily make this again.

Now on to the Souper Sunday Round-up, where we have some great bloggers with their soups in hand from all over the globe.

First up, another barley fan, the wonderful Kat from Our Adventures in Japan. She has a sure way to warm up the cold winter weather in Osaka with a hearty bowl of Beef Barley Soup. Full of vegetables, this soup is a fast and delicious meal. Kat has been consuming lots of soup lately as she waits for a bit of snow to come her way. 

I'm a big fan of Kat's blog and so is Abigail from mamtouille, another blogger located in Japan. She found out about Souper Sundays from Kat's post and wanted to share Nobue-san's Seafood Soup, a recipe she got from her friend Nobue. A delectable chowder-style soup full of fish, shrimp and potatoes and such a pretty color too. Looks like our friends in Japan know how to stay warm and comforted this winter.

Who doesn't love alphabet soup?  You get comfort food and entertainment at the same time! Joie De Vivre is here from Southeastern Washington with a pot of homey Vegetable Beef Soup. Full of potatoes, carrots, corn and other healthy veggies, this is a hearty bowl of goodness. Take a look at that perfect loaf of Challah behind it that accompanied this delicious meal.

If you can't decide whether to have cheeseburgers or soup for dinner, look no further than Kristen from locallcfoods decadent Cheeseburger Soup.  Kristen is a new blogger who recently joined Tyler Florence Fridays and it's nice to have her here, sharing some soup. She went looking for this recipe because it reminded her of a favorite soup at a deli her Mother-in-Law owned.  Since Rhode Island is having some frigid weather too, this soup is a great way to keep the chill away. 

My friend and our talented Souper Sunday logo designer, Ivy from Kopiaste is here from Greece with one of her favorite cold weather soups, Fakes Soupa (Greek Lentil Soup). Like many of us, Ivy is trying to get back into healthier cooking and eating after the holidays and that includes lots of vegetables an legumes.  This delicious-looking soup is chock full of healthy ingredients and a great way to meet her goals.

Debbie from The Friday Friends and her blog devoted to specifically soup, Ahhh SomeSoups is back this week with another favorite soup to share. Having gone through the weather gamut in the high desert of Nevada this week; snowy, cold, foggy, damp sunny and now really windy, a big pot of her quick and easy Chicken Tortellini Soup is just the bit of satisfying comfort she needed. 

My friend Stephanie, from Dispensing Happiness is back this week with what she thought was going to be a delicious Simple Peasant Soup. Alas it proved to be neither simple (it took two pots and lots of time) or delicious and no amount of her "happy sorcery" could make it better. (Too bad because it looks yummy!)  Stephanie's dogs reaped the benefits of it though and had a soup supper, good because the temperatures in Tennessee make even the pups crave some soup! Hmm... Steph's next Blog Party: Tiki, Two is coming up soon--wonder if I should make a tropical soup? 

Natashya, my best buddy from Living In the Kitchen With Puppies, finally bowed to the pressure of everyone telling her she needed to make The Barefoot Contessa's Pappa al Pomodoro soup. She was not disappointed! This soup was a winner for her and her husband who declared his love for Ina at the dinner table.  It's OK, Natashya is not the jealous type and loves Ina Garten too!  If you have to be snowed in, in Eastern Canada, this is the soup you want to have with you.

From the other side of Canada, Christine from Kits Chow is back with another tantalizing soup creation. Her White Bean Soup has a creamy base of leftover turkey gravy (Yum!), lovely white beans of course and is garnished with some sauteed leeks and crispy bacon. Christine says that this rich, filling soup is quick and easy to make and perfect for a cold, foggy Vancouver BC day.

The lovely Laurie from That's Not What The Recipe Says, whipped up a quick and delicious Kicked Up Cream of Tomato Soup with Spiced Chickpeas  that she found in a magazine today just to participate in Souper Sundays!  I am so glad she did because it's great to know you can whip up a spicy, exotic creamy tomato soup with ginger, curry and coconut leaves in about 30 minutes.  There is nothing like spicy soup to heat yourself up and with low temps in her neck of the woods in Massachusetts this one is perfect.

Although the weather in Florida isn't as cold as it is where many of our other bloggers are located, Kim from Ordinary Recipes Made Gourmet, still loves her soup. Kim has been "all about the potato" this week and has a bright and creamy Potato Cheddar Cheese Soup to share. I love the gorgeous color of this soup from all of that wonderful cheddar cheese. Another first timer, Kim heard about Souper Sundays from Laurie and I am happy to have them both here this week. 

Wow!  Another full Souper Sunday Kitchen and an amazing batch of creative and delicious soups. Old friends and new from all over over the world and we all love a good bowl of soup! You can get the details on these incredible soups on everyones' blogs. If you don't know all of these bloggers, take some time to explore their blogs, there is some amazing talent out there. 

If you have a favorite or new soup (or soup-like dish) you want to bring to Souper Sunday, come join us.  You can get all the details right here.

Happy Sunday!  Here's to great soups and a great week! 


  1. Barley has to be my favourite soup ingredient. I love it's chewy nuttiness.
    What a souper turn-out! Must be all that cold and snow.. turning our thoughts to soup. :)

  2. Deb, I'm definitely trying your wedding soup!!! I can't get ground turkey in Japan but I can get lean ground pork from Costco, so that's my plan. I have some in my freezer right now, and I think I still have some barley left that my aunt sent me from the States. All the soups look really delicious, and I want to try Ivy's soup too because I heart lentils. :) Maybe I'll just have to try all of these at some point!

  3. What a great bunch of delicious soups! I love your take on the Wedding soup, you sure made it a lot healthier. I'm sorry I missed out, I needed an extra day in my busy week.

  4. Thank you Deb for posting my potato soup and accommodating me for missing the deadline! I love what you wrote about me, you are so sweet! I will definitely send you more soups and on time!!! Thank you again! ;)


  5. It's really hard to choose from all these lovely soups. I would like to try them all but barley sounds like a very interesting ingredient to add into soups.

  6. what a great round-up, thanks again for hosting this event, it is a great way to see all the different varieties of soups out there, bookmarking a couple too :)

  7. Wedding soup is a regular on my rotation. I love barley and often use the turkey for my meatballs. Going to try the barley in a future version. Lots of yummy soups this week.

  8. This is the second time I have seen a reference to Italian Wedding Soup - I feel like everyone knows about this delicious thing but me!

  9. Wow! What a roundup!!! I've been wanting to make Italian Wedding Soup since before Christmas and your recipe looks great, Deb.

    All the soups look so yummy I just want to dive into the bowls.

    Thanks for fitting me in at the last minute. I'm so glad Kim joined us. Souper Sundays are such a big bowl of fun.

  10. It is so funny that you posted Italian Wedding Soup -- I was JUST reading Ina's recipe and spent a good 15 minutes deliberating about whether to make it today. I am going to try yours instead! It sounds perfect, and I love the healthy modifications you've made. This entire roundup is wonderful -- has me in the mood for a nice big bowl of soup.

  11. I love the modifications that you made to this soup! Also, the whole roundup looks great! I've got to remember to particpate, I know I eat soup at least once a week!

  12. Thanks everyone for the positive comments and to everyone that participated in Souper Sundays this week! I hope to see all of you at some future Sundays!

  13. Pam--I'd love to have you participate in Souper Sundays. Let me know if you have questions!


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