Notes: If you have up to a cup or so of the canned chicken broth used for the meatballs, it can be added to the soup. You can use pre-ground chicken for the meatballs, but the end result won't be as bouncy as per the instructions. If you can't find a pearl shaped pasta use Israeli couscous with the following changes to the instructions to allow for the extra cooking time of the Israeli couscous: in step 3, cook the vegetables for just 1 minute and cook the couscous until tender, about 30 minutes before cooking the meatballs.
To form the meatballs by hand, grab a handful of meatball mix and gently squish a small bit through your hand, through the thumb and forefinger until it's the size of a small meatball. Using a spoon, cut it away from your hand and drop into the soup. For a video guide, see The Waitakere Redneck's Kitchen. It may look strange but it works!
- 1 3/4 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces (see note)
- 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken broth (see note)
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 small clove garlic, halved
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra for serving on the side
- Pinch white pepper
- 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 large carrot, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup pearl pasta or Israeli couscous (see note)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley to garnish
Place chicken thighs and drumsticks in stock pot, add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, bay leaf, and 10 cups water. Heat on medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until meat is tender, about 45 minutes, skimming off fat from the top. Transfer meat to plate and when cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones and cut into bite size pieces. Strain stock and reserve.
While stock is simmering, make meatballs: Place chicken breast pieces, chicken broth, bread crumbs, baking powder, garlic, 2 teaspoons oil, cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, and white pepper in food processor. Pulse until a paste is formed (do not purée). Transfer to bowl, cover and chill.
When the stock is ready, cook the soup: Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrot, celery and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until just beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes (If using Israeli couscous, only cook for 1 minute).
Add reserved stock (from simmered leg meat), bring to simmer, then remove from heat. Using a very small scoop or hands (see note), drop meatballs into soup. Return to heat and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and cook until al dente, following package directions for timing. Season to taste with salt and serve with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley over the top.