2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 large carrots, peeled, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
a good pinch saffron (optional)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup (approx 60g) finely grated parmesan (make sure it is made with vegetable rennet), plus extra to garnish
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup flat-leafed parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
400-500g chicken mince (I used Bostock)
1 egg, lightly beaten
250-300g ricotta ( I used Massimo’s)
¼ cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten

The light and clean chicken meatball soups of Italy are something of a favourite of mine, but these days I tend to make a flavoursome and chunky vegetable base in place of chicken broth. For something more substantial, add some quinoa or rice, small pasta shapes or a can of white beans. Some shredded silverbeet, kale or spinach leaves never go amiss.

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2.In a large saucepan heat the oil and fry the onion, carrot and celery with the salt until soft, around 10 minutes.
3.Add the thyme, garlic and saffron and cook for a minute before adding 2 litres water.
4.Bring up to a simmer and cook gently for 30 minutes.
5.Use half for each variation.
7.In two large bowls divide the breadcrumbs, garlic, parmesan, lemon zest and parsley.
8.Add the chicken mince and egg to one bowl and mix well, seasoning with salt and pepper.
9.To the other bowl add the ricotta, flour and egg and mix well, seasoning with salt and pepper.
10.Rather than risk the dumplings breaking up, I always shape and test one ball of each in a small pan of just-simmering salted water before I shape the remaining mixes. This is also a chance to check the cooking time of the dumplings. If you do the ricotta dumpling first you’ll be able to use the same pan to test the chicken.
11.Ricotta quality and wetness vary considerably depending on the brand. It may be necessary to add 1-2 tablespoons extra flour to the mix. Test again before shaping.
12.Generally speaking, the ricotta dumplings will take 4-5 minutes to cook through while the chicken dumplings will take around 8-10 minutes.
13.Shape the dumplings and refrigerate until ready to cook.
14.Divide the vegetable soup into two saucepans and bring to a simmer.
15.Poached chicken balls can lack a little colour, so sometimes I’ll fry them for a minute or two (as I’ve done for the photo), then poach in the liquid to finish cooking for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through.
16.After 5 minutes drop the ricotta dumplings into the other pan and cook for 4-5 minutes.
17.Ladle the soup into bowls and scatter each with more parmesan and parsley.
18.Serve with bread alongside.

Recipes & food styling Ginny Grant / Photography Aaron McLean / Styling Jessica Hemmings

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