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Lentil and Escarole Soup with Lamb Meatballs

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This soup is based on a recipe we found and another from Martha Stewart. Both looked very good and one was vegan.

But, I also needed to use a half-pound of ground lamb that we had on hand, had no carrots, had chicken broth but not enough tomato as was called for and cannellini beans (canned) looked like a good idea, too. So, as one might guess, the original recipe(s) morphed into something else entirely.

You can make the meatballs ahead of time, or you can make them as the soup is simmering and the lentils are cooking.

Leave out the chicken broth and use a vegetable broth, and skip the lamb meatballs and cheese and you’ll have a vegetarian recipe that makes a good one-pot meal as well.

French Lentils


Lentil and Escarole Soup with Lamb Meatballs croppedLentil and Escarole Soup with Lamb Meatballs

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup French green lentils or other type of lentil
1 quart chicken broth
1/2  bay leaf
1 can whole tomatoes, cut into small dice (use the juice, too)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 escarole, cored and cut crosswise into 1-inch strips
Lamb Meatballs (see recipe below)
1 can cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, manchego)

Lamb Meatballs
1/2 pound ground lamb
2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 small clove garlic, diced
1 tablespoon diced onion
1 teaspoon minced cilantro plus cilantro for soup garnish, if desired
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Pinch ground black pepper

For the Soup: In a stockpot, melt butter or heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and carrot, and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add lentils along with the quart of chicken broth and 1 cup water and bring to boil, then simmer for about a half hour, or until the lentils are just tender. Then, add  bay leaf, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes or so. Then stir escarole into soup, and cook a few minutes more — just until it wilts, but still is a bright green.

Add hot, cooked Lamb Meatballs to soup along with the cannellini beans and stir. Adjust seasonings, and serve in four bowls topped with a sprinkle of the grated cheese, some cilantro (if desired) and a drizzle of good olive oil.

For Lamb Meatballs: Mix together all ingredients well and form into 12 medium-small meatballs. Fry in a heavy-bottomed skillet or put on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or so. You want them cooked through, but remember they will also be simmering in the soup.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From Bonnie Walker

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