An easy homemade chicken meatball soup loaded with pesto, pasta, all in a quick parmesan cheese flavored broth. This recipe is warm, comforting, and not short on flavor!

chicken meatball soup in bowl with spoon

Listen, I get it.

You may or may not be on board with chicken meatballs. But here I am telling you, you need these pesto chicken meatballs in a parmesan broth. It starts with easy homemade chicken meatballs. I flavor the ground chicken with pesto, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, but the theme here is basically stirring the ingredients in a bowl, making meatballs, and popping it in the oven. No chopping is required. But that’s not to say you can’t use store-bought turkey meatballs if you want to make this recipe in a pinch. Bake them the exact same way, and use them. 

The other star of this chicken meatball soup recipe? The parmesan broth. 

You know the waxy rind on the back of a block of parmesan? That thing. When you simmer the rind with homemade or store-bought chicken stock, it totally makes the best soup base. And before you know it, you’ve got a bowlful of tender meatballs, al dente pasta, bright greens, and a pesto parmesan broth that is seriously so good you’ll want to add parmesan rind to all your soups from here on out.

chicken meatball soup topped with parmesan and pesto

Ingredients for chicken meatball soup:

  • Ground Chicken: You could also use ground turkey for this recipe as well if you prefer. Other protein would also work for this recipe.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs: Panko is used as a binding ingredient. It helps the meatballs hold their shape.
  • Seasonings: You’ll want to use some poultry seasoning, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and dried parsley. If you want to use fresh parsley, that will also work just fine! I wanted this soup recipe to be super pantry-friendly so I used dried parsley this time around.
  • An egg: a beaten egg is added in with the other ingredients for the meatballs to help with binding.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Grated parmesan cheese goes into the meatball recipe. I also like to hang on to the parmesan rind and toss it into the soup to give the broth a richer umami flavor.
  • Olive oil: We’ll saute the onions in olive oil before we make the parmesan broth.
  • Pesto: I use basil pesto for this recipe. You can use a store-bought or homemade pesto. If you use store-bought, I suggest getting the pesto that is usually kept in the refrigerated pasta section of the grocery store rather than the stuff that’s in jars in the tomato sauce aisle. The flavors and colors are so much better in refrigerated pesto.
  • Onions: Diced onions sauteed in olive oil are the base of the chicken parmesan broth.
  • Chicken Stock: You can use low sodium chicken broth but you may need to add additional salt towards the end. You can also use regular (not low sodium) if you prefer as we’re adding quite a bit of water. Totally your call here!
  • Pasta: I like to use anellini (spaghettiOs pasta) for this recipe but I know it’s not available everywhere. Ditalini pasta is what I use in my homemade minestrone recipe and that would work well for this soup as well.
  • Greens: I like to add in a handful of cleaned lacinato kale at the end. You can also use curly leaf kale, baby spinach, or other mixed greens as well.
pesto chicken meatballs on tray with spatula
anellini pasta in bag

How to make chicken meatball soup:

  1. Make the meatballs. Start by preheating the oven and lining a sheet pan with parchment paper or some aluminum foil. I like to spray the foil with cooking spray. Then, you want to combine all the ingredients except for the ground chicken in a bowl and mix. This is my secret to making the best meatballs! This way, you get to mix everything thoroughly without overworking the meat.
  2. Bake them. When the ingredients are combined, use a tablespoon to scoop out the mixture and roll it into balls. The meatball mixture shouldn’t stick to your hands, but on the off chance that it does, keep a small bowl of water next to you and dip your hands in it so that the meat doesn’t stick to your hands. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake them until golden and cooked through.
  3. Simmer the soup. While the meatballs are baking, you want to add a glug of oil to a soup pot or large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them until softened. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Add the chicken stock, water, and parmesan rind and allow the stock to reach a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. This is where the rind releases all that parmesan flavor into the soup broth.
  4. Finish and serve. When the meatballs are done, remove them from the oven. Add the pasta to the soup pot and cook according to package directions. When there are about 3 minutes left for the pasta to be done, add in the pesto, green, and the prepared meatballs. Stir to combine and fish out the parmesan rind and discard them. Taste and adjust the soup with salt,  black pepper, or other spices to your preference. Serve warm in bowls with crusty bread on the side.
meatball soup in dutch oven with wooden spoon

FAQs about meatball chicken noodle soup:

  1. Can I use something other than pasta in this recipe? A can of drained and rinsed white beans would be a good swap here.
  2. Can I use store-bought meatballs instead of making my own? Yes, you can swap the meatballs recipe for store-bought ones if you’d like. I suggest preparing them to package directions before adding them to the soup at the end.
  3. Can I add additional veggies like carrots and celery? You can if you’d like. I would add them in when you sauté the onions.
  4. Can I use a pesto made with different herbs other than basil? My spinach pesto, as well as broccoli pesto or pesto, made with a variety of herbs will also work. You just want to use something you really enjoy the flavor of on its own!

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soup in bowl with parmesan and pesto on top
Yield: Serves 5-6

Pesto Chicken Meatball Soup in Parmesan Broth

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

An easy homemade chicken meatball soup loaded with pesto, pasta, all in a quick parmesan cheese flavored broth. This recipe is warm, comforting, and not short on flavor!

Pesto Chicken Meatball Soup in Parmesan Broth

Ingredients

Chicken Meatballs:

  • 1¼ pound ground chicken
  • ½ cup EACH: panko breadcrumbs AND parmesan
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 2 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning ot (see notes)

Parmesan Broth:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup onions chopped
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 2-3 rinds of parmesan
  • 1 cup anellini or ditalini pasta (or other small shapes)
  • ¼ cup prepared pesto
  • 1 ½ cups packed greens (kale, spinach, etc.)

Instructions

    1. PREP: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray or use parchment.
    2. BAKE: In a bowl, using a fork, mix together all the ingredients for the meatball except the chicken. Then add the ground chicken and mix until *just* combined. Use a tablespoon of the meat mixture per meatball (you should get 28-35 meatballs.) Place on the prepared baking sheet roughly 1-inch apart and bake for 18-22 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked (or they reach an internal temp of 165ºF.)
    3. SIMMER: While the meatballs bake, heat a 5-quart dutch oven or larger over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them for 5 minutes before adding the red pepper flakes. Pour in the chicken stock, water, and add the parmesan rinds. Allow the stock to simmer for 15 minutes.
    4. FINISH: Then add the pasta and cook according to package instructions. When the pasta is about 3 minutes from being done, add the pesto, greens, and meatballs back into the soup pot. Fish out Parmesan rind; discard. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve warm topped with more parmesan if desired.

Notes

  • poultry seasoning: my seasoning mix contained salt, so I didn't add any additional salt to the meatballs. if yours doesn't contain salt, you may want to add 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt along with the other meatball ingredients.

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