‘Clean out the fridge’ meatball soup

A hearty and satisfying meal ready in 30 minutes!

Inspired by classic North American-style Italian meatball soup, this version is fast and flexible. I vary the vegetables depending upon what needs using up in the fridge. Squash or sweet potato are great additions, for example, and you could easily use finely chopped spinach, Swiss chard or bok choy instead of the kale. The soup freezes beautifully though it will thicken as the pasta absorbs more liquid, so you may want to add a bit of stock or water when reheating. You can make your own meatballs (see my recipe at the bottom) or use frozen, fully cooked ones; whichever you choose, add to the soup near the end so they don’t fall apart.


  • 3 dozen small fully cooked Italian meatballs (about 1 inch / 2.5 cm) (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely diced onions
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) finely diced sweet green or red pepper
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) beef or chicken broth
  • 1 28 oz (828 mL) can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250 mL) tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) each dried basil and oregano
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch hot pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup (250 mL) baby shell pasta or other small pasta (use gluten-free pasta if preferred)
  • 2 cups (500 mL) finely chopped kale
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving


  • If making your own meatballs, prepare them first (see recipe below) and put them in the oven to bake. If using frozen, fully cooked meatballs, thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes before starting soup.
  • Heat oil in a large pot, InstantPot, or pressure cooker. Add onions, carrot, celery and diced pepper. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables have softened, 3 – 4 minutes.
  • Add broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasonings. Stir to blend well.
  • Add pasta and cover pot; increase heat in a conventional pot to bring to a boil, then reduce heat so soup is bubbling but not ferociously. If using an InstantPot, close the steam valve and use the soup setting.
  • Check the pasta after 15 minutes (10 minutes if using an InstantPot or pressure cooker) to see if it is approaching al dente (tender but not mushy); when it is, add cooked meatballs and kale. Cover and cook for 5 minutes longer.
  • Serve hot, garnished with freshly grated Parmesan.

Makes 6 servings.



  • 1 pound (454 g) lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) panko or other fine bread crumbs (use gluten-free if preferred)
  • 1 large shallot, finely minced (or ¼ cup / 60 mL minced onion)
  • 1 teaspoon (15 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1 egg, beaten


  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine ground beef, panko, shallot, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, pepper, salt and egg. Mix until combined.
  • Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, shape into 36 small meatballs. Compress them just enough to hold together but avoid packing them too tightly as this will make them a bit tough in texture. Place the prepared meatballs on the parchment-lined baking sheet as you shape them.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Let rest on counter until it is time to add them to the soup.


Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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