Turkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Orzo

Freezer-friendlyMake-aheadGround Turkey

Turkey meatballs in an easy soup with spinach and orzo! Make the meatballs ahead and freeze for a quick weeknight meal whenever you need one.

Photography Credit: Sheryl Julian

These baby meatballs are so cute you’ll fall hard for them. Use your hands to mix them in a bowl with a little Parmesan and some parsley – you’ll feel like an Italian nonna!

Once shaped, the meatballs go into a soup with orzo and lots of baby spinach. It’s an easy, hearty meal that everyone will love.

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Turkey Meatball SoupMeatballs were traditionally made with scraps of meat, often pork or beef, and stale bread. They were a make-do meal for people who had little.

Today, most of us just buy ground meat at the store whenever a craving strikes. But meatballs are still an economical meal, especially when mixed with whatever sandwich bread or leftover dinner rolls need using up.

Turkey Meatball SoupI like to quickly sauté the meatballs to brown their outsides, but you can skip this step if you’re in a hurry. Then, just cook them in chicken broth along with the orzo and spinach. A dusting of grated Parmesan added at the end brings out the flavor of the cheese in the meatballs and adds to the scrumptious tastes in your bowl.

Turkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Orzo Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings

If you want to skip the instructions to brown the meatballs, just drop them off a long-handled spoon directly into the simmering stock.

To make the meatballs in advance, set the rolled meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze until firm. Then drop the meatballs into a plastic freezer bag. Defrost them overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.


For the meatballs:

  • 2 slices white bread or 1 soft dinner roll (about 3-inches across), left out overnight
  • 1/4 cup whole or reduced-fat milk (60 ml)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (32 g)
  • 1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat or at least 85% lean
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 8 cups chicken stock (2000 ml)
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta (70 g)
  • 5 ounces baby spinach, with any long stems removed (165 g, or 8 loosely packed cups)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (128 g), for serving


1 Make the meatball mixture: Shred the bread or roll with your fingers into 1/2-inch pieces. In a bowl, combine the bread or roll, milk, egg, Parmesan, turkey, salt, pepper, and parsley. With a clean hand, work the mixture until it is well blended.

2 Shape meatballs: With wet hands, shape 2 teaspoons of the mixture into a small walnut-sized meatball (1 1/2-inches across). Repeat, making 30 to 34 meatballs total.

Turkey Meatball Soup

3 Brown the meatballs (optional): In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When it is hot, add half the meatballs and cook for 3 minutes, or until they are browned on the bottom. Turn and cook 2 minutes more, until browned on the other side. Remove from the pan. (The meatballs will not be cooked through.)

Cook the remaining meatballs in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same way.

Turkey Meatball Soup

4 Make the soup: In a soup pot, heat the oil. Add the celery, carrots, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and orzo. Return the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan.

Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the meatballs are cooked through and the orzo is tender (cut the meatballs in half to check them; taste the orzo).

Turkey Meatball Soup Turkey Meatball Soup

5 Cook the spinach: Add the spinach to the soup and cook 2 minutes more, or just until it wilts.

6 Serve the soup: Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan.

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Sheryl Julian

Sheryl Julian is an award-winning writer, editor, and food stylist. She is the former food editor of The Boston Globe, co-author of The Way We Cook, and editor of The New Boston Globe Cookbook. Her food sections won Best Newspaper Food Coverage from the Association of Food Journalists in 2015.

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14 Comments / Reviews

No ImageTurkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Orzo

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Bettie

    I would really like to know how many calories in a serving of this soup? We both think it is delicious.


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  2. Joyce

    Delish! I did add some leftover chopped onion and a clove if garlic only because it was available. I had frozen turkey meatballs which made this soup quick to come together.


  3. Kathleen

    I was thinking of using breadcrumbs (such as panko) in the meatballs instead of sliced bread. Would it still be okay to drop the ‘uncooked’ meatballs in the soup to cook if I use a panko type crumb?

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  4. Crissy

    This was so delicious! We loved it! I used 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs in the meatballs and cooked them in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes before adding them to the soup. I would chop the spinach next time and add less salt to the broth! Wonderful recipe! Definitely will make again!


  5. Suzanne

    Can you use frozen precooked turkey meatballs?

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Turkey Meatball SoupTurkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Orzo