Tucked between the kale and Swiss chard in my parents’ backyard garden, there is a small row of escarole that my mother planted from seed.  Just for me.  At the end of the summer last year, I had found a few different recipes I wanted to try, all of which called for escarole.  I must have mentioned something to my mother around that time about those recipes, and hinted that she may want to plant some of the leafy greens next season.  And then I promptly forgot all about it, until two weeks ago, when Mom told me the escarole was up and ready to go.  But, of course, I had no idea where to find all of the recipes I had in mind less than a year ago.  Except for one:  Escarole and Orzo Soup with Turkey Meatballs.

Escarole can be used as a salad green, but because it is sometimes slightly bitter (the lighter leaves are less bitter),  it’s often used in soup.  This particular soup contains some of my favorite things – pasta, cheese, and homemade chicken stock – but the ground turkey meatballs are definitely the stars of the dish.  They are light and mild, and if you combine the meatball and some broth in the same bite, they are kind of divine.

The original recipe called for Parmesan cheese in the meatballs, but I think using the milder Romano elevates them from being just-another-meatball to being my favorite-meatball-ever.  But feel free to use whichever cheese you prefer.


Escarole and Orzo Soup with Turkey Romano Meatballs

Adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2003

Yields about 6 servings


1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
19 ounces lean ground turkey
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 cups low-salt chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup onion or shallot, chopped
3/4 cup chopped peeled carrots
3/4 cup orzo
3 to 4 cups coarsely chopped escarole (about 1/2 medium head)


  1. Whisk egg and 2 tablespoons water in medium bowl to blend.   Mix in breadcrumbs; let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Add turkey, Romano cheese, parsley, 2 cloves minced garlic, salt, and pepper; gently stir to blend.  Using wet hands, shape turkey mixture into 1 1/4 inch diameter meatballs.  Place on baking sheet; cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
  3. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat.  Add 2 to 3 minced garlic cloves and onions, sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add 6 cups chicken stock and 1/2 cup of water to the pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Add carrots; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 8 minutes.
  6. Add turkey meatballs and orzo and simmer 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in chopped escarole and simmer until turkey meatballs, orzo, and escarole are tender, about 5 minutes longer.
  8. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle soup into bowls and serve with extra grated Romano cheese to sprinkle on top.

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