On a good—or, honestly, even just not-bad—week, there’s chicken broth and bread ends in the freezer, and something green in the fridge. Enter: this back-pocket spring dinner to ease you out of winter or soothe whatever ails you. If you’ve ever had matzo ball soup, this will taste familiar, just with some bready, cheesy adjustments. Instead of matzo, these dumplings start with bread—more specifically, bread scraps, which I hope you never throw out. Don’t substitute shelf-stable dried bread crumbs; too uniform and dry, they won’t provide the same flavor or texture. Here’s how to make fresh bread crumbs: After collecting a hodgepodge of bread loaf ends (butts? tushies?!) and stale bread slices in the freezer over a couple weeks, thaw them at room temp, then pulse them in small batches in a food processor until finely ground. Ideally, use as many crusts as possible, and a whole-grain and/or sourdough loaf for the biggest flavor and best absorption. If you can’t find Pecorino, Parmesan works really well as a replacement. And when it comes to the greenery, you lead the way. Add a couple handfuls of arugula, pea shoots, or watercress. Or some bite-size pieces of barely blanched asparagus. Or frozen peas. Really, whatever looks good at the supermarket—or in your crisper drawer or freezer—is welcome here. Just stick to one ingredient and don’t overthink it. To make this vegetarian, simply swap in vegetable or mushroom broth. As with chicken, homemade broth is ideal—though I always have a jar of Better Than Bouillon to turn to in a pinch. —Emma Laperruque
Add the bread crumbs, eggs, Pecorino, and black pepper to a small bowl. Mix until combined, then let sit for a few minutes so the bread can absorb the liquid. Meanwhile, add the chicken stock to a pot and set over medium heat to come to a simmer.
The dumpling batter should be the consistency of thick oatmeal or porridge; if it’s too loose, mix in more bread crumbs a couple tablespoons at a time to sight. Scoop the dumpling batter by the rounded tablespoon (a cookie scoop works nicely here), then roll between your palms into balls (this will be a little messy, slightly damp hands help). When the broth is simmering, lower in about half the dumplings, or however many will fit with enough room between each for them to grow. Cook for 6 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the dumplings are very puffy. Remove to a plate and cook the remaining dumplings in the same way.
Divide your chosen spring greenery between the bowls, top with dumplings, then ladle in broth. Sprinkle with more Pecorino and black pepper if you’d like.