this turkey meatball and gnocchi soup is a mashup of at least two different soup recipes that i combined and then changed some more. oh, and the original inspiration started off with a bag of frozen chicken meatballs (dooooon’t leeeeave!). and if we’re being honest, the gnocchi aren’t in any of the other soup recipes that i was riffing on and i can’t remember where that idea came from but it turns out to work really well (more on that in a bit).
so, true confessions time: over the holidays, we were traveling for a few weeks and needed to make ourselves some easy dinners, which translated into buying a bag of frozen chicken meatballs that we could combine with pasta and “a gesture towards a green vegetable”, to steal what might be my new favorite phrase from a friend of mine.
the meatballs were actually pretty good (read: they had a ton of garlic in them), except for the fact that they had waaaaay too much salt (read: they had one of the lowest sodium contents of anything we could find in the frozen foods aisle). which is to say, they got the wheels turning in my head.
i remember that i had made a soup a few years ago that had turkey meatballs in it. i remember liking said soup. i also remember said soup being a lot of work. i have not made said soup again, even though it was tasty.
then my brain remembered reading about a soup recipe where the meatballs cook in the soup, which eliminates the step of prebaking the meatballs. progress.
when we got home from our travels, i dug out the recipe for the cook-the-meatballs-in-the-soup soup and immediately started tinkering. again, no idea how this idea got into my head, but i switched out the orzo that the recipe called for and used gnocchi instead. as i alluded to earlier, this worked really well because unlike pasta that gets kind of bloated and soggy when it sits around as leftover soup, gnocchi’s texture doesn’t noticeably degrade. more progress.
my first batch of soup was good but the recipe that i was working from (read: changing a bunch, namely by adding moremoremore garlic) used a broth base, which is rarely a format that i prefer for soup.
this led me to look back at the soup that my brain had filed under “good, kind of hard” because i knew that one had a tomato base, which i was more excited about. i made a modified version of that soup next and confirmed that the only piece of it that i wanted to keep was the tomato base, to replace the broth base.
so, finally, i made a third batch (we ate a lot of soup in late january/early february…), which combined my favorite elements from each soup, plus more garlic. and we had a winner!
this soup is hearty, flavorful, garlicky (yum!), aaaand not too difficult to make. plus, the leftovers are actually better than the fresh soup because the tomato and garlic goodness soaks into the meatballs (but not in a way that makes them mushy and gross, just flavorful). so now i have another go-to winter soup recipe that i *won’t* wait a few years to make again. (i know you think winter is over and you won’t have a chance to make this until next fall but may i gently remind you that it’s still early march? buy the ingredients now and thank me later…)
- 2 slices of hearty sandwich bread (i used whole wheat but white would work too)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz. / 118 ml) milk (i used skim)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 cup (1 3/4 oz. / 50 g.) grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 pound (16 oz. / 454 g.) 85% lean ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 28 oz. (794 g.) canned crushed tomatoes (i used no salt added)
- 8 fl. oz. (1 cup / 276 ml) low sodium chicken broth
- 48 fl. oz. (6 cups / 1420 ml) water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- rind from pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, optional
- 7 oz. (198 g.) kale, thick ribs removed and leafy parts chopped into bite sized pieces
- 17.6 oz. (499 g.) vacuum-packed gnocchi
- fresh basil, torn, to serve
- pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, to serve
- in a large bowl, use a potato masher to mash the bread and milk into a smooth paste. add the milk, egg yolk, cheese, garlic, oregano, and crushed red pepper and mash/stir to combine. add the turkey and use your hands to mix everything together.
- use a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon to form 1” (2.5 cm) meatballs. spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. you should end up with about 55 meatballs. cover the meatballs with plastic wrap and stick them in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for the soup. (the meatballs can be made up to 24 hours in advance.)
- heat the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or large, heavy bottomed soup pot. add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. add the garlic and crushed red pepper and stir constantly until they are fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- add the tomatoes, broth, water, tomato paste, and cheese rind and bring to a boil.
- stir in the kale to submerge it, then add the meatballs and gently stir them in. simmer for 8 minutes, then add the gnocchi and stir so they are submerged. simmer the soup for 2 – 3 minutes, until the gnocchi are floating, the meatballs are cooked through, and the kale is softened. serve with fresh basil and pecorino or parmesan cheese.
leftovers of this turkey meatball and gnocchi soup are excellent; the flavor soaks into the meatballs and the gnocchi retains its texture better than pasta. store leftover soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or, as a gift to your future self, freeze individual portions so you can defrost them quickly and easily later.
adapted from a combination of cook’s country’s pittsburgh wedding soup, skinny taste’s mini turkey meatball vegetable soup, and my imagination.
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