Artichoke Soup with Meatballs

5 from 12 votes
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Artichoke soup is typically a blended, creamy affair, but I like it better chunky, with interesting things floating in the broth, like meatballs and other vegetables. It’s easy to make with preserved artichoke hearts, but better with freshly turned ones, depending on how ambitious you are.

A bowl of artichoke soup on an old wooden table.

This particular rendition of artichoke soup as a whole has its origin in Abruzzo and Molise, which, roughly speaking, form the “Achilles’ tendon” of the Italian boot.

Artichokes are thistles, and I’ve always had a thing for thistles. After all, they are one of the symbols of my ancestors, the Scots. Most people think them entirely unworthy of notice, let alone the table. But get past that prickly exterior and you will discover depth: sweetness and bitter, warmth and softness, a strange comfort. Thus this artichoke soup.

For the foragers out there, know that you can eat the crowns, roots and unopened flowers of any thistle, but here I am talking about our domesticated thistles, the artichoke and the cardoon.

I use just the artichoke hearts here, and they are, if you’ve never had one, meaty and rich, with an unusual sweetness about them. If you are up for it, turning your own artichokes is the way to go. (Here’s how to do it.)

That said, high-quality artichoke hearts in a jar are also good, and add something to the artichoke soup. I say high-quality because I find that the more expensive artichoke hearts you buy, the firmer they are. The giant Costco jars of hearts are tasty, but tend towards mushy. (I make my own pickled artichokes.)

Cardoons can be equally meaty — think of them as a cross between an artichoke heart and celery — but have none of the sweetness of their cousin. You can buy cardoons in some supermarkets, but if you don’t want to go looking for them, celery works almost as well.

A close up view of the artichoke soup.

Meatballs for Artichoke Soup

Artichokes go well with lighter meats, and I originally made this artichoke soup with pheasant meatballs. Obviously that’s a bit esoteric, but any finely ground meat will do here. Ground turkey, pork, or chicken will be the easiest.

These are simple, easy-to-make Italian soup meatballs, the sort you’d see in a classic Italian wedding soup. Fun to eat.

You can make the meatballs ahead and freeze them if you want, or they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days.

What does it all taste like?

A brothy pinball game of meaty sweetness from the artichokes, a bite of bracing bitter from the celery or cardoons, browned, savory-herby meatball to balance out that last bite, all bathed in a pretty broth studded with fresh green herbs and the occasional sliver of fresh garlic.

I can pretty much guarantee you this artichoke soup will be a set of flavors unfamiliar to you — and one you will find yourself coming back to again and again, as you develop your own thing for the humble thistle.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

A bowl of artichoke soup on an old wooden table.
5 from 12 votes

Artichoke Soup with Meatballs

I like to use fresh artichoke hearts and cardoons because, well, I grow them and I actually like the process of turning artichokes and prepping cardoons. But the easy alternative is to use pickled or preserved artichokes. No cardoons? Use celery.
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes



  • 10 to 16 small artichokes, or that many preserved artichoke hearts
  • 1 pound cardoons, or 1/2 pound celery stalks
  • Juice of 2 or 3 lemons
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • 1/2 pound ground meat
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried lovage (optional)


  • Oil for browning the meatballs
  • 2 quarts pheasant or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives
  • Parmesan or pecorino cheese for grating


  • Prep the Artichokes. If you are using fresh artichokes and/or cardoons, get a big bowl of cool water ready. Pour about half the lemon juice in it, and keep the squeezed lemons handy. If you are using fresh artichokes, you will want to pull off most of the leaves, until you get to the tender yellow part. Slice off the end of the stem, leaving a little, and then the top of the tender leaves. Rub everything with the lemon. Slice the artichoke in half and use a paring knife to scrape out any fibrous "choke."
    If you are using preserved artichokes, you're good to go for the moment.
    If you are using cardoons, you will want to strip all the leaves off them and peel the larger strings off the stalks the way you might do with celery stalks. Cut them into pieces you'd want to eat with a spoon in soup and drop them into the bowl with the lemon water.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. As the water is heating up, whisk in the flour until it dissolves with no lumps; this helps preserve color. Add the other half of the lemon juice and the olive oil, plus a healthy pinch of salt. Watch the pot, as the flour in it will make everything want to boil over. Once you are at a nice simmer, add all the cardoon pieces and artichokes. Simmer until everything's reasonably tender, between 15 and 30 minutes. You want there to be a little al dente bite left in the thistles. Turn off the heat and let them sit in the water for the moment.
  • Prep the Meatballs. The moment you drop the cardoons and artichokes into your simmering water, put all the meatball ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Form little meatballs — remember these are for soup, so two bites is maximum size, at least for me — and set them on a tray. There's a good chance you'll be done making meatballs when the cardoons and artichokes are ready.
  • Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large pan and brown the meatballs. Set them on a paper towel to drain when they're done. Note that there's no need to cook the meatballs all the way through yet. You just want them nicely browned.
  • Finish the Soup. Now you're ready to put the soup together. Heat the broth in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the sliced garlic cloves. Drain the artichokes and cardoons, rinse briefly, and add them to the soup. Add the meatballs.
    Note: If you're using preserved artichoke hearts and celery stalks, now is the time to put them into the soup.
    Let everything simmer very gently — no boiling, or the soup will get cloudy — for 5 minutes, then add the chopped parsley and chives. Let this cook another minute, then serve with grated pecorino or parmesan cheese over everything.


One thing that will move this recipe from good to great is good, homemade broth. Pheasant, chicken, wild turkey broth — whatever you choose, it will be better in most cases than anything you can buy. 
If you can’t find small artichokes, reduce the number to one per person, and quarter the hearts. 


Calories: 260kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 786mg | Potassium: 729mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1791IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 124mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Fantastic! I wish Cardoon was available. I used canned (not marinated chokes and celery). I boiled the celery 1st. Make sure to add the lemon to the celery and even the chokes while they sit waiting. I think the lemon is the secret ingredient. Used pheasant thighs with salt pork for fat to make the meatballs. Hanks ingredients is almost identical to my grandmothers (I am Italian).
    Thanks Hank

  2. Made it with Pheasant meatballs. Use canned but not marinated artichokes. Had to use celery. It was fantastic! Be sure and add lemon to the artichokes. Laso added and pre-cooked the celery. The soup got better with age two! Can’t wait ti make again, this time with the pheasant both I made afterwards.

    Oh be sure and top it with Ramona cheese

  3. Hank,

    Since I have today off – and the local market has artichokes in stock – the artichoke soup is on the menu for tonight!

    Hoping that Minnesota is good to you. It sure was to me as a kid in the early 60’s.


  4. Seems I have found a kindred spirit in you. I am not a chef but was raised by one. Wild foraging for mushrooms and for plant based medicine is my love. Tinctures and all things apothecary keeps me busy. Thank you friend