White Bean, Escarole, and Meatball Soup

by Meg Cotner on November 8, 2010

As the weather continues to cool down, I am more and more in the mood for soup.  I love eating it and making it – it’s a great platform for creativity, too.

Last week, I had some beautiful escarole from my CSA share, so I wanted to do something with it.  White bean and escarole soup – which I have enjoyed many times over the years – immediately came to mind.  Easy to make, light yet filling, plus I had everything I needed on hand.  However, I wanted to up the nutrition in it since I was going to have to make it with water instead of stock (I had no stock on hand and prefer not to use the boxed/canned stuff).  Adding meatballs came to mind!  I enjoy them in Italian Wedding soup, so why not add them to my white bean and escarole soup?  The flavors seemed compatible.

We get this sweet Italian turkey sausage from the CSA that we just love, and I had some on hand and thought it would make for some tasty meatballs.  I actually hadn’t made meatballs before, but thought they couldn’t be too difficult – meat, eggs, some kind of binder.  However, I decided to check in with The Art of Simple Food, Alice Water’s book on cooking basics, just to see if there was more to meatballs than what I imagined.  Good thing I did, because there were a few other ingredients involved . Fortunately, they were easy to find, and they made my meatballs truly amazing!

The meatballs held up in the soup and added a lot of flavor to things.  And like I said, they kept their shape and didn’t fall apart, a scenario that had crossed my mind. And the flavors indeed did go with the escarole and white beans. Total win.

I chose to sprinkle my soup with grated parmesan, which I got some from the Italian deli near my apartment, for some extra flavor, and that was an excellent decision. It’s delicious – savory and nutty without being overly salty.

This soup takes about a half hour to put together once the beans are cooked and the meatballs are done.

White Bean, Escarole, and Meatball Soup

The meatballs could be your own favorite recipe, or this wonderful meatball recipe from The Art of Simple Food. I made a half recipe and ended up with about two dozen leftover meatballs, and used them for the following few days in pasta and just as a snack.

3/4 cup dry white beans, soaked with a little base (I use baking soda), yielding 1 1/2 cups cooked. Alternatively, you could use one 15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed.
1/4 cup diced onion
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 head escarole, washed, cored, and chopped into 1 inch strips
4 c. water or chicken stock
two dozen small meatballs (about the size of a rounded teaspoon)
salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Rinse the beans, and cook in water until done. Add salt to taste, then drain.

In a large pan, saute the onion in olive oil and a little salt until transluscent. Add the beans and cook in the onion/oil mixture for 5 minutes. Add the escarole and cook until it wilts.

Add water or stock and cook 5 more minutes.

Add the meatballs, and simmer for 15 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon into bowls and top with parmesan. Enjoy.

Makes 4 main course servings.

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