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.

  • Yield about 8-10 servings


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.