Lemony Orzo Soup

Created by Chef Pam Smith

1 1/2 cups Barilla orzo
Chicken Mushroom Meatballs, recipe follows
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced carrot
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon turmeric (optional, for color)
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
2 quarts chicken bone broth
5 oz. baby spinach
2 lemons (1 juiced and 1 cut into wedges for serving)
Optional garnish: red chili flakes, crumbled feta and fresh herbs
Chicken Mushroom Meatballs:
1 1/2 pounds lean ground chicken (may substitute turkey, lamb, grass fed beef, or cooked chickpeas/lentils
½ lb. ground roasted cremini mushrooms, recipe follows
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from one lemon)
½ cup packed cup fresh parsley and/or mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons adobo kitchen
1 Tablespoon Creole seasoning
½ cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup feta, grated
½ cup panko
Roasted Mushrooms:
2 pounds Cremini mushrooms, cut in small dice if large, quartered if small
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons Creole seasoning


  1. Prepare chicken meatballs following recipe; Shape meatballs into 1 oz. size. Reserve until soup is in progress.
  2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium until shimmering. Add the diced onion, celery, carrot and sliced mushrooms, cooking until they begin to soften and turn translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic, seasonings, turmeric, orzo and red-pepper flakes, stir to incorporate until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  4. While soup is simmering, brown prepared meatballs under a broiler. Brown one side, then flip over to brown the other side. Add meatballs to simmering soup, right as orzo has cooked to al dente.
  5. Simmer another 4-5 minutes to finish cooking meatballs and remove from heat.
  6. Stir in the spinach and lemon juice and stir until the spinach is just wilted, about 2 minutes more. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  7. Spoon into serving bowls. Garnish with red chili flakes, crumbled feta cheese, lemon and fresh herbs, if desired.

Note: if you save extra for next day, leave spinach leaves out. For next day soup, drain the broth from the orzo and meatballs and store separately. For an amazing next day pasta, store as is — the orzo will soak up the rest of the broth.

Chicken Mushroom Meatballs:

  1. To a medium bowl, add the chicken or turkey, ground mushrooms, herbs and lemon zest.
  2. Heat EVO in a small pan, add onion and saute until sweet and translucent. Add garlic and seasonings and saute another 30 seconds. Place in shallow bowl to quickly cool and then add to the chicken mushroom mixture.
  3. Stir milk, egg, grated feta and panko together and let rest for 5 minutes or so to make a panade (gives perfect texture to the meatballs). Add to the chicken mushroom mixture.
  4. Gently combine the mixture without squeezing too hard or overworking the meat. Lightly wet your palms and shape the meat into small balls, a little smaller than the size of a golf ball, about 1½ inches, or 1 oz each.
  5. Utilize mix for meatballs, meatloaf, kefta, burgers, breakfast sausage, etc. May change ingredients and flavor profile to fit many global/ethnic cuisines.

Roasted Mushrooms:

  1. Place two baking sheet pans in oven and preheat the oven to 400º F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms with the olive oil and Creole seasoning. Spread in an even layer on the heated baking sheets. Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and quite dry. They will reduce considerably in volume (by half). Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Grind in grinder or food processor fitted with the steel blade until chopped fine (to the size of hamburger) but still retaining some texture. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes 1 lb. or about 2 cups.