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Pastina in Broth with Tiny Meatballs

Brodo di Pastina e Polpettine

Serves 4

Baking the meatballs instead of frying them keeps them light and tender, and eliminates adding any additional fat. Having chicken broth on hand makes this a soup that can be ready in no time.


1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 pound ground beef chuck

2 teaspoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 scant teaspoon ground cloves

2 quarts homemade or canned low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup pastina or other small soup pasta such as stelline or orzo


Combine the bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium-size bowl, mix the chuck, cheese, lemon zest, salt, and cloves just enough to combine the ingredients. Gently mix in the bread-crumb-and-milk mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Form tiny meatballs using about ½ teaspoon of the mixture and roll each ball between the palms of your hands. To keep your hands from sticking, dip them in water occasionally.

Place the meatballs in an 8-inch baking pan or dish; bake them for 6 to 8 minutes, then remove them form the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper-towel-lined dish to drain.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a pot. Stir in the pastina and cook until al dent, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the meatballs, lower the heat to medium, and cook about 3 minutes longer. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese if desired.

NOTE: The meatballs can be made and frozen after cooking for future use. They'll keep for several months. Other broths, such as beef, veal, and vegetable, can also be used.

VARIATION:  You may also use Capon Broth instead of Chicken Broth in this recipe with excellent results.

This recipe is from MANGIA PASTA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1998.


  1. brenda arellano's avatar

    brenda arellano

    I made this for my daughter who loves soups and added spinach to it. She loved it its one of her favorited soup and asks for it at least once a week

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