Slow Cooker Italian Wedding Soup

The weather here has been in flux, we had one 70 degree day, several days in the 60s, and the temperature is headed back down to 40 overnight. We had this on the menu for Monday since Dave was off work and could throw everything in the crock pot midday, but it's been a little difficult to eat the leftovers when it feels more like summer than soup weather. I'm looking forward to taking more of this Italian wedding soup for lunch tomorrow.

This recipe can be made vegan by using a flax egg and vegan Parmesan/nutritional yeast. Sometimes I'm disappointed by crock pot recipes, but making this in the slow cooker was easy. The added meatballs are what helped to give this differing textures. Sometimes vegetarian meatballs don't hold together very well, but these were dense enough to survive sitting atop the soup like in traditional Italian wedding soup.

For the soup:
-1 medium yellow onion, diced
-2 celery stalks, diced
-3 carrots, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-10 cups vegetable broth
-10 ounces baby spinach
-1 cup acini di pepe pasta
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-2 teaspoons salt
-1/4 teaspoon black pepper
-Extra freshly ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese for serving

For the "meatballs":
-1 egg
-1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs + 2 tablespoons, divided 
-1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, divided
-1 teaspoon dried parsley
-1 teaspoon dried basil
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

For the soup: 

In the slow cooker, add onion, celery, carrot, garlic and vegetable broth. Cook on low for 5 hours. With 20 minutes left in cooking time, stir in the baby spinach and pasta. After 20 minutes, turn off the slow cooker, add lemon juice, salt and pepper.

For the "meatballs":

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, add chickpeas, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, onion powder, garlic salt and 1 egg. Pulse to combine. If using a blender, add small amounts of water as necessary to operate. Mix 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Roll chickpea mixture into small balls and roll in the breadcrumb/cheese to coat (we made 24 meatballs for our six servings of soup). Place the meatballs on a foiled lined baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes.

Serve the soup broth in 6-8 portions, topping with the meatballs, more black pepper, and Parmesan.


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