Clean-Out-the-Fridge Lentil Soup with Turkey Meatballs

I brought home a pile of freelance work to do today, and it took longer than I expected to finish it. When I finally turned off my marketing brain it was nearly 8:00, and aside from taking out some ground turkey breast to defrost this morning, I’d given no thought to dinner. Our car’s been buried by the blizzard so the food supplies are running pretty low (Fresh Direct comes tomorrow, thank God)—a couple of rubbery carrots, a lonely parsnip, half a wrinkled rutabaga. We were even out of onions. Sitting in his office, S and I tossed around a few ideas:

  • Turkey burgers: nope, we ain’t got buns
  • Turkey chili: unh-unh, considering S’s recent late-night stomach ailment
  • Spaghetti with turkey meatballs: no, too much bother
  • Turkey meat loaf: not enough turkey
  • Ummm…

I gave up on using the turkey tonight and considered the pantry’s contents. A nice big canister of French lentils smiled at me. Dinner was saved! Lentil soup would be easy, and amenable to all kinds of additions. Tomorrow we’d have turkey burgers. One look at S told me we weren’t out of the woods yet—since we’d had minestrone for lunch (it was fabulous, at our local pizza place!) he yearned for something with protein in it, animal protein. That’s when I thought of my mom’s addition to her tomato-rice soup: tiny veal meatballs. Surely ground turkey would work equally as well.

Off we marched into the kitchen. Half an hour later a big pot of soup was bubbling on the stove. By nine-thirty it was done, and by a little after ten we were leaning back, satisfied. The soup was filling, healthy, delicious—a solid triple, but somehow not a home run. It didn’t knock our socks off the way the farro soup did. We only had two slices of buffalo bacon left, and something tells me a little more would’ve made a big difference. And I think next time I’ll add sun-dried tomatoes.

Now, what will we have tomorrow? Leftover soup!

(Weight Watchers readers: it’s Core.)

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Lentil Soup with Turkey Meatballs

Serves 6-8, easy

For the soup:

A glug or two of olive oil

3 slices of bacon, diced (I used buffalo bacon)

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2-3 cups of diced raw root vegetables (I used a parsnip, ½ a rutabaga, two carrots, and two ribs of celery)

1 pound of lentils (I used small French ones)

1 can (whatever size you have) Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice (I used a package of Pomi brand)

1 good-sized parmesan rind

A couple of sprigs of fresh herbs (I used two each of thyme and marjoram)

Three quarts of liquid (I used three cans of chicken broth, and the rest was water)

Freshly ground pepper


For the meatballs:

1 pound ground turkey (I used turkey breast)

2 T. fresh thyme leaves

2 T. grated parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper

In your biggest stock pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the bacon and garlic and sauté for a minute or two, then add the diced root vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about five minutes. Add the lentils and stir. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the parmesan rind, and the herbs, and stir. Finally, add your liquid and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. I’ll leave the salt up to you—if you’re using bouillon cubes or canned broth, you should probably wait and adjust the seasoning at the end, but if you’re using water you’ll want to add a teaspoon or two now. Cover and bring to a boil.

While the soup is heating, make the meatballs: Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly—don’t spend too much time mushing it around or it’ll turn to lead. Using a scant teaspoon of the mix for each, form tiny meatballs—you should get 40-45 from a pound of meat.

When the soup begins to boil, add the meatballs carefully, dropping them in one by one. Stir the pot gently once or twice, put the cover back on, and reduce heat to a very low flame. Simmer for 45 minutes, and test to see if the lentils are done. Older lentils will absorb more liquid and take longer to cook, so be prepared to add more water if necessary.

Remove the parmesan rind and the herb sprigs before serving.