When you are walking around Trader Joe’s, and someone hands you a party sized mini meatball with barbecue sauce, and it’s delicious, and the bags of meatballs are literally RIGHT THERE…. you’re going to buy them. You cannot possibly resist.
I was a victim of this same mini meatball attack one year ago. The meatballs have been in our freezer ever since. (Let the record show that I also make a mean from-scratch meatball, which is why I haven’t used said frozen meatballs). I wasn’t about to let them go to waste.
I had orzo leftover from making manestra a gazillion years ago, and a big bag of vegetable scraps in my freezer with which to make stock. This, coupled with the fact that I had a ton of Olivia’s Organic spinach about to bite the dust, prompted the birth of this soup.
I love making meals out of leftover things I have around the house. They are usually a risk, since they are unplanned and very frequently completely made up on the spot. I’ve had a few go terribly. This soup, however, came out DELICIOUS! And, the fact that I made it out of leftover ingredients made it seem like it was completely free (even though I know it’s not)! It’s like getting a tax return. Not exactly “free” per se… but you get the idea.
Plus, it’s a one-pot meal. Plus, it takes only 30 minutes to make. PLUS, you can make it ahead of time!!! AND, you can freeze the leftovers. Boom.
Eating healthy is more expensive than not eating healthy. That’s one of the reasons why so many people do not eat healthy, fresh, whole foods. But if you plan your meals carefully and make sure to reduce your food waste to close to zero by making things like this soup out of leftover ingredients, you can definitely eat well on a budget.
Promise. Pinky swear.
Back to the soup. It’s comforting, healthy, and light. The balance between beef (meatballs), whole grains (orzo), and vegetables (tons o’ spinach) makes for a well-rounded, soul satisfying meal. It’s a lot like Italian wedding soup, which also has meatballs and greens.
Fun fact: did you know that Italian wedding soup comes from a mistranslation of an Italian phrase that means “married soup,” meaning that greens and meat are “married” together into the soup?
I hope you enjoy this lighter, healthier recipe amongst the heavier holiday meals of this week. Speaking of which-try using leftover turkey from Thanksgiving as a substitute for the meatballs! Or, any other kind of leftover meat. Use those leftovers- remember, it’s like a free meal! :-)
Weekend Prep: If making meatballs from scratch, make sure to have them done and cooked ahead of time. Also, you can make the soup completely but don’t add the spinach just yet. When serving, reheat and add spinach to wilt in just before serving. If taking to work, bring a small amount of spinach to add to the soup after microwaving (by the way, this is a great trick to eating more veggies at work and works with many different kinds of soups!).
Italian Spinach, Orzo, and Meatball Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 oz. canned tomato paste
- 6 cups chicken stock/broth or vegetable broth
- 1 lb. cooked meatballs frozen or homemade, the smaller the better
- 1 cup orzo whole wheat or regular
- 4 cups baby spinach packed
- Saute the onion in oil (2 tablespoons) over medium heat in a large pot until translucent.
- Add garlic; saute for one minute or until fragrant.
- Add tomato paste and spices; stir to coat and continue heating over medium heat until tomato paste cooks for a bit.
- Add stock (6 cups) and meatballs. Bring to a boil.
- Add orzo (1 cup). Cook until orzo is al dente; approximately 15 minutes.
- Just before serving, add spinach (4 cups) and stir into soup until wilted.
- Weekend Prep: If making meatballs from scratch, make sure to have them done and cooked ahead of time. Also, you can make the soup completely but don't add the spinach just yet. When serving, reheat and add spinach to wilt in just before serving. If taking to work, bring a small amount of spinach to add to the soup after microwaving!
- Make it vegetarian: use vegetable broth and vegetarian "meatballs."
- 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning can be used in place of the oregano, basil, and thyme.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools: