If you need to feed some carnivores a vegetarian meal where they won’t miss anything, THIS IS THE ONE. It is one of the most savory soups I have ever made. Instead of the classic meatballs usually included in Italian wedding soup, it contains baked white bean balls which are absolutely delicious. There’s also kale, orzo, and a bunch of other veggies to round it out.
This recipe is adapted from the fabulous and fun Thug Kitchen. Warning: their website and cookbook contain lots of cussing! I’ll keep it clean here, but if you’re OK with the swearing, read their original stuff – it’s a hoot (see Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck). They’re vegans, and we’re not, so I’ve added an egg and some cheese in my version, but if you want to keep it vegan, those are optional.
There is one unusual ingredient in here – the nutritional yeast (I use Bragg Nutritional Yeast Seasoning). Vegans use it as a healthy substitute for grated cheese (Thug Kitchen describes it as “healthy Cheeto dust”!). Don’t be discouraged by the weird-sounding name – it adds umami (savory flavor) to your dish, and also contains tons of B vitamins. If you like Thug Kitchen, they use it a lot, so it’s not a one-hit wonder for this recipe. But if you really don’t want to try it, they suggest flour as a substitute, which probably helps knit the bean balls together but wouldn’t add any flavor.
If you love this, here’s another recipe I made by Thug Kitchen: pumpkin chili with fire-roasted tomatoes, white beans, and toasted pepitas
- For the white bean balls:
- Cooking spray
- 1 large yellow onion, divided (1/4 c. + the rest)
- 3 c. cooked white beans (2 - 15 oz. cans)
- ½ c. whole wheat bread crumbs
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- ¼ c. nutritional yeast or flour
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 T. soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tsp. all-purpose no-salt seasoning blend (I used Mrs. Dash)
- 1 tsp. each: dried thyme, basil, and oregano
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Optional: 1 egg (this helps the bean balls to stay together, but if you leave it out, they're just a little crumbly, which is OK)
- For the soup:
- 1 T. olive oil
- The rest of the chopped onion, from above
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 c. small dried pasta, such as orzo
- 9 c. vegetable broth
- 1 T. fresh lemon juice (from ½ the lemon you zested, above)
- 5 oz. baby kale or other dark leafy greens
- ¼ tsp. each sea salt & freshly ground pepper
- ¼ c. chopped fresh basil
- Optional: Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
- To make the white bean balls: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, mash the white beans until they form a paste (I used a potato masher for this). Try not to leave too many unmashed beans - really get in there and mash 'em! Stir in the rest of the ingredients: ¼ c. chopped onion, white beans, bread crumbs, garlic, nutritional yeast or flour, olive oil, soy sauce or tamari, dried spices, lemon zest, and egg (if using). You might need to use your hands to mix it all together. Form the bean mixture into golf-ball-sized balls using your hands and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops with a little more cooking spray. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
- To make the soup: While the bean balls are cooking, heat 1 T. olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the rest of the chopped onion (minus that ¼ c. you used for the bean balls), carrots, and celery, and a little bit of salt. Cook and stir for 5-7 minutes, or until the onion starts to brown and caramelize. Add the garlic and the pasta and cook for about a minute more. Gently pour in the broth and let it all simmer together for about 10-15 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Fold in the lemon juice, greens, salt & pepper, and fresh basil.
- To assemble the dish: Place 3-4 bean balls in the bottom of a single-serving soup bowl. Gently ladle the soup over the bean balls. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese if using. Enjoy!!