Building Community At America's Table

First Step Soup

First Step Soup was featured at Soup & Bread, a community-building event that Martha Bayne organizes at The Hideout in Chicago every winter. The recipe was adapted from Kristin Reese, a family farmer in Ohio who with her husband Matt has become a part of the community of One Hundred Meals.

– Ellen

Original Recipe

For the meatballs:

  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 10 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

Adapted Recipe


for the chicken stock:
Four frozen hens (old hens culled from the flock, destined for the pot)
8 quarts water that has been seasoned enough to taste sea water-y

for the meatballs:
Couple freezer bags of ground pork (the last of Bessie)
three solid handfuls of  bread crumbs (OK, some old crackers were added to the Vitamix to bulk up volume)
half a head of garlic, smashed to near oblivion
solid handful of cleaned ramp greens, chopped
lots and lots of grated Parm
good solid dollop of cream
2 eggs of whatever size chickens laid, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the soup:
swirl of olive oil
1 onion, diced smallish
3 carrots, diced smallish
burdock root from the garden, however many of these “weeds” that need pulling
small handful lovage
lots and lots of chicken stock, watered down
2 boxes pasta in the shape of tiny stars
foraged garlic mustard, fortified with overwintered mustard greens from the hoop house, slivered


for the chicken stock

Make chicken stock by shoving the frozen chicken, whole, into a pressure canner and pouring in 2 quarts salty water. Bring to pressure and cook 30 minutes. Strain and place in fridge so fat floats to the top. Reserve chicken for another use such as pressure canned enchilada filling or taco-seasoned meat or something like that.

for the meatballs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place ground pork, bread crumbs, garlic, ramp greens, cheese, cream, egg, and salt and pepper in a bowl and lightly combine — don’t overmix! Take a small bit and cook it up to taste. Start adding in whatever random spices, herbs or whatever to make it taste good, making small test batches along the way. Mine were pretty well-seasoned. When you are happy, form small meatballs and drop onto a sheet pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. You can then store these in the fridge or freezer if needed.

for the soup

Heat oil in a soup pot, add onion, carrots and burdock, season, and saute until softened. Add the chicken stock and lovage, bring to a boil. Taste to figure out how much water to add and to make sure there is enough seasoning in the stock. Adjust as needed. Add the pasta, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the pasta is tender. Add the foraged greens and mustard greens or whatever else you have that is fresh and green and cook until soft. Then add the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper and probably some vinegar (I added Greenhouse Tavern Garlic Beer Vinegar) and whatever else seasoning things you think are needed (I also dumped in some dried Italian herbs I had from last summer’s garden that I wanted to get rid of).



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  1. Pingback: One Hundred Meals “Launch Party” « One Hundred Meals

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