This soup is my absolute favorite, and is always on my holiday buffet. I make it often during the year as well. The soup can be made ahead of time, without the pasta. Just re-heat the soup and add pasta the day of the event. Serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese.
Mini Pesto Meatballs:
½ lb. Ground Chuck-85% Lean, ¼ lb. Ground Italian Sausage, 1 Egg, ¼ Cup Pesto (prepared), 2 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley, ¼ Cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs, 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced, ¼ Tsp. Salt, ¼ Tsp. Pepper
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
4 oz. Diced Pancetta (Order this sliced thin from the deli counter)
1 Cup Onion, Chopped & 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 Head of Escarole, Cleaned Well and Chopped
2 Cartons Chicken Stock (32 oz. size)
4 oz. Parmesan Cheese (Cut a Wedge)
2 Cans Cannellini Beans, undrained
1 Cup of Roasted Chicken Chunks (using store bought roasted chicken)
1 Cup Ditalini Pasta
Pecorino Cheese, Grated
In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients. Shape into small “cocktail sized” meatballs (I used a melon scoop to help shape). Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approx. 15-20 minutes (until cooked through). Meanwhile, in a large pot, sauté the diced pancetta in 2 Tbsp. of olive oil for approx. 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the sauté pan with the pancetta drippings. Saute for approx. 3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the chopped escarole and cook for approx. 3 minutes longer, until escarole is wilted. Add the chicken stock, wedge of parmesan cheese and cannellini beans. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer for approx. 10 minutes. Add the roasted chicken chunks, the mini meatballs and the ditalini pasta (or other small pasta like orzo), and cook until the pasta is done, approx. 10-12 minutes. The soup will be ready when the pasta is cooked through. Serve warm with grated pecorino cheese.