In my opinion, some soups are better suited for cold weather while others lend themselves to almost any season or occasion. For example, as much as I adore a bowl of roasted tomato soup with a grilled cheese in the winter, I just have no interest in such a meal in spring or summer. (Oh, the irony, what with tomatoes being in season during late summer. Oh well.) Broccoli cheddar soup is pure comfort in a bowl, but it is far less charming during warm summer months. But then there are soups like this one, so incredibly full of flavor, packed with good for you ingredients, and with the always excellent addition of tortellini. This is most definitely welcome at my table all year long.

At the risk of being overly effusive, I must say that this is one of the best soups I have ever eaten. It starts out with a sort of quick version of veggie broth, made with a very finely chopped mixture of herbs and veggies simmered with water. No pre-made stock or broth required, which happened to be perfect since I had just used up the last of the stock from the freezer before making this. Instead of traditional meatballs, this meatless version relies on eggplant balls crusted with panko and they are perfection. Plenty of hearty greens are also included which keep the meal satisfying but still light. The whole thing just works. You may want to consider doubling the amount of veggie balls. We probably will next time – we just couldn’t get enough of them! This also made great leftovers for lunches, which just makes me love it even more.


For the soup: 

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 oz. fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3½ quarts cold water
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 parmesan rinds
  • 1½ tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 18-20 oz. cheese tortellini

For the veggie balls: 

  • 1 large eggplant, unpeeled
  • 1 cup panko, plus more for coating veggie balls
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for cooking



  • 01

    In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and basil. Pulse until the entire mixture is very finely chopped and almost forms a paste (known as a pestata.) Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven over high heat and add the pestata into the pot. Cook until the mixture has released most of its liquid and is beginning to dry out a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Add the water to the pot gradually, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you do so. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the chard, kale, zucchini, parmesan rinds and salt. Cook covered for 25 minutes and then uncovered for 20 minutes more. Add the tortellini during the last 10 or so minutes of cooking (according to package directions so they will be just cooked when the soup is finished.)

  • 02

    While the soup is simmering, make the veggie balls. Chop the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Bring a medium to large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Drain the eggplant in a colander and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible. Transfer to a cutting board and finely chop the cooked eggplant, then transfer to a medium bowl.

  • 03

    Into the bowl with the eggplant, add the panko, parmesan, parsley, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in the egg. Stir until evenly combined, then form the mixture into 1- to 1½-inch balls. Coat each ball in panko. Add a generous amount of olive oil to a heavy skillet (I used about ¼ cup) and heat over medium-high. When the pan and oil are very well heated, add the veggie balls in an even layer. Turn the balls gently as they cook until all sides are browned. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. When the soup is finished cooking, add a few veggie balls to each serving.

  • Melissa B

    This sounds fantastic! I love Italian wedding soup. I generally don’t like eggplant, but being so chopped and mixed with other ingredients it just may work for me! I always have a problem with pasta in soup, the leftovers always suck up all the broth on me! I am going to try this for sure though!

  • Diane

    This looks delicious!

  • Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie

    I’ve been wanting to make this recipe of Joanne’s! She raved about it and it looks so good.

  • Susan

    Oh my word! This is my dinner tomorrow for sure. I have just one quick question Annie… Will adding the balls earlier make the crust soggy? I am assuming yes. Also, does the use of eggplant make the texture sticky? Not to fault your recipe of course, just that I have had that problem with eggplant meatballs in the past. Love your recipes so much!

  • Oooh those panko crusted balls look soo yummy!

  • Steph

    I live in Florida, and it’s about 80 degrees right now, but for some reason, this sounds SO good! Maybe it’s the pregnancy talking. Haha
    Definitely adding these ingredients to my shopping list!

  • Heidi Schermerhorn

    made this tonight, tasted good although I probably wont make again since it was so time consuming

  • annieseats

    You know, I think it probably would but I’m not totally sure. We ate the entire batch of veggie balls with our first round of this meal, hence my suggestion to possibly double them. I would have loved to have more for the leftovers that were my lunches a few days later. I think probably best to store them separately for the sake of the texture. Enjoy!

  • Samantha E.

    Eggplant balls! That has so many possibilities… never would have thought of it!

  • I am SOOOO glad you liked this!! It’s one of my favorites also. Those eggplant balls are seriously a vegetarian meatball godsend!

  • Amy Basso

    I want to eat this right now as I am watching the snow fall out my window! YUMMY!