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Polpettini in brodo della zia (Aunt Lidia's chicken meatball soup with risoni)

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook Pasta Artigiana

A dinner invite from zia Lidia, my auntie, means this soup. I wouldn't have it any other way as it tastes amazing and everyone loves it. She cooks and prepares wonderful food, including the most fantastic pickled artichokes in oil, but this soup is my favourite. During winter, we have featured this soup at The Restaurant Pendolino, and it is no surprise that it is always a big hit. At Pendolino, we substitute the risoni with freshly made quadrettini pasta, which is a nice touch, but risoni or pastina are the classic pastas to use. The best soup in the world!

Polpettini in brodo della zia

PREP TIME 30 minutes (longer if making homemade broth)
COOKING TIME 25 minutes


2.4 litres (84 fl oz) chicken broth (see below)
fine sea salt, to taste
200 g (7 oz) risoni
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to serve (optional)


300 g (10½ oz) minced (ground) chicken
2x 59g (2¼  oz) free-range or organic eggs
90g (3¼ oz or 1½ cups) fresh white breadcrumbs
150g (5 1/2 oz or 1½ cups) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
fine sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


To make the meatballs, mix all the meatball ingredients together. Roll into balls that are 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter and set aside on a plate or tray. My auntie's tip for rolling the meatballs is to lightly cover your hands with olive oil as this makes rolling very easy and prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands.

Bring the chicken broth to the boil. Season with the sea salt, being careful not to overseason as the meatballs will add saltiness to the soup. Add the chicken meatballs one by one. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes before adding the pasta. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring the risoni intermittently. Serve topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, if desired.

Chicken broth

(Makes approximately 2.5 litres (87 fl oz/10 cups)

1-1.2 kg (2lb, 4 oz - 2lb, 10 oz) free-range chicken or boiling hen
1 kg (2lb, 4 oz) fresh chicken bones, thoroughly washed
100g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) leek, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
3 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs
4 litres (140 fl oz/16 cups) water
fine sea salt, to taste


Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer without a lid for 2½ to 3 hours. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface of the liquid throughout the cooking process. Remove the chicken, shred the meat from the bones (discard the skin and bones), strain the liquid through a fine strainer and refrigerate. If there is excess fat, it will solidify at the top of the refrigerated broth. Remove this with a spoon before using the broth. The cooked chicken can be used in other recipes. Chicken broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

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