Italian Wedding Soup

THIS ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP RECIPE IS a hearty, warm and comforting FAVORITE ALL MADE IN ONE POT!

Italian Wedding Soup is a traditional Italian soup made with juicy, herb-Parmesan infused pork meatballs, acini de pepe, carrots, celery, and spinach all simmered in a bold, rich, aromatic, broth – it is MEGA flavorful comfort in a bowl!  This recipe is also all made in one pot – no need to bake/sear the meatballs first!  This Italian Wedding Soup recipe is customizable with your favorite veggies, favorite pasta and you can even use chicken/turkey instead of Italian sausage/beef for the meatballs.  Italian Wedding Soup is make-ahead friendly (tips and tricks included!) stores and reheats beautifully, is freezer friendly irresistibly delicious!

top view of two hands holding a bowl of authentic Italian Meatball Soup recipe

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ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP RECIPE

Now that we’re in the depths of winter, we’re ALL ABOUT soups at our house.  I pretty much have a new soup recipe coming your way every week, because I can’t get enough!   There’s just nothing like a big bowl of cozy, satisfying, soothing, warm soup that warms you from the inside out on a cold day.  And there’s nothing quite like this Italian Meatball Soup recipe. 

It boasts the rich, flavorful aromatic broth of chicken noodle soup but with juicy, tender meatballs like in albondigas soup with the veggies of minestrone soup.  So essentially, it’s the best of the best all in one soup!  Here’s what makes it so divine:

  • THE MEATBALLS.  The unique meatballs in authentic Italian Wedding Soup are the juicy, plump, delectable, flavor exploding star. They are traditionally loaded with both ground beef and pork but I go one step further and use mild Italian sausage instead of pork for even more flavorful meatballs.  They are further studded with fresh parsley, basil, oregano, aromatic onions and garlic with homemade bread crumbs.  Can we say layers of texture, flavor?!  The meatballs are made extra delicious – and extra easy -by cooking directly in the broth so they soak up even more flavor.
  • THE PASTA.  Along with the meatballs, pasta is the defining characteristic of Italian Wedding Soup.  We use acini de pepe in this recipe for its small, delectable, satisfying size and texture. 
  • THE BROTH.  The chicken broth is spiked with parsley, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper and a splash of bright, refreshing lemon juice, but what really elevates this broth is, like I mentioned earlier, the meatballs cook directly in the broth.  This symbiotic relationship not only makes juicier meatballs, but infuses the broth with TONS of rich, hypnotic flavor.
  • THE VEGGIES.  The vegetables in this Italian Wedding Soup recipe are customizable but the simple combination of carrots, celery, and spinach is sublime.  The tender veggies with the juicy meatballs with the small pasta create a symphony of textures you won’t be able to get enough of!

Why is it Called Italian Wedding Soup?

Italian Wedding Soup sounds like a soup that is served at Italian Weddings but this is somewhat of a misnomer as it has nothing to do with exchanging wedding vows.  Instead, its namesake “minestra maritata,” which means “married soup” refers to the marriage of flavors; the marriage of the tantalizing herb infused broth, the marriage the al dente pasta, the marriage of the tender veggies and leafy greens and the marriage of the juicy, tantalizing meatballs.  They all combine to create a happy “marriage” of flavors and textures. 

The name “Italian Wedding Soup” is thought to come from its humble beginnings when peasant cooks would add whatever vegetables they had growing in their gardens or foraged along the countryside along with whatever scraps of meat they had on hand to the soup.  The veggies and meat would seamlessly blend into a “harmoniously marriage” of ingredients. 

It wasn’t until centuries later that Italian-Americans turned this humble “married soup” soup into “Italian Wedding Soup,” and the romantic tales escalated with each storyteller.  To further the romantic story, acini di pepe became the favorite pasta to use in Italian Wedding soup because it translates to “seeds of a pepper” which was known as a symbol of fertility. 

What is Italian wedding soup made of?

There are quite a few ingredients listed for this Italian Wedding Soup recipe due to both the soup and the meatballs – but keep in mind the meatball ingredients are dump and roll, and the soup is sauté, add and simmer so please don’t be scared away!

THE SOUP

  • Pasta: acini di pepe is the authentic Italian Wedding Soup favorite and provides the perfect texture and size. It is also hard to overcook so it doesn’t become soggy in the soup.  You should be able to find this round pasta in most grocery stores or you can Amazon it.  Just a note – it is a very small pasta when dry – so small you might think you have purchased the wrong pasta!  It will expand significantly once cooked.
  • Oil:  high quality olive oil for the best/most authentic flavor but any cooking oil will also work.
  • Onion: you will need one yellow onion for the Italian Wedding Soup recipe – half a cup for the meatballs and the rest for the soup 
  • Carrots:  chop the carrots into roughly 1/4-inch chunks. 
  • Celery:  chop the celery into roughly 1/4-inch chunks. 
  • Garlic: I use 4 garlic cloves but you can use more or less depending on your garlic love.
  • Cannellini beans: aren’t traditionally added to Italian Wedding Soup but I think they’re a spectacular addition.  They add an irresistible creamy texture and nutty flavor. 
  • Spinach:  4 oz. of baby spinach, trimmed and extra-large pieces torn.  4 oz. will come out to about 3 packed ups.
  • Lemon juice:  enhances all of the flavors of the soup with a fresh, vibrant pop.  You can use fresh or bottled lemon juice and more or less to taste.
  • Chicken broth:  use low sodium beef broth so we can control the salt otherwise your Italian Wedding Soup will be too salty.
  • Herbs:  dried parsley, dried oregano, dried basil, and dried thyme, are added at the beginning of the simmering soup which infuses the broth with subtle herby goodness.
  • Salt and pepper:  this easy Italian Wedding Soup recipe is further seasoned with salt and pepper to awaken the entire soup.  Remember you can always add more salt and pepper to taste, so it is better to start conservative then add more to taste to individual servings later. 
showing how to serve easy Italian Meatball Soup recipe by  scooping a big spoonful of soup in a brass ladle

THE MEATBALLS

  • Beef: I recommend lean ground beef because it is fatty enough to taste juicy and lean enough to not make your soup greasy.
  • Italian sausage: adds tons of flavor to the meatballs instead of using just ground pork.  You may use ground pork, however, if that’s what you have on hand. 
  • Breadcrumbs:  I like to make my own breadcrumbs for this Italian Wedding Soup recipe by toasting a slice of white bread, removing the crust and dicing or chopping in the food processor.  The crumbs boast a looser texture than store-bought breadcrumbs which makes for juicer meatballs.  You may, however, substitute with ½ up panko breadcrumbs.
  • Onion:  use half a cup yellow onion.  Make sure to dice it fine so you don’t bite into raw onion in your meatballs.
  • Garlic:  I honestly prefer garlic powder in my meatballs because I think it distributes more evenly than garlic cloves; but you may use 3 finely minced garlic cloves; your choice.
  • Egg:  one large egg will do the trick.
  • Herbs:  give these Italian Wedding Soup meatballs their distinctive alluring flavor.  Chopped fresh parsley, basil and oregano or you may substitute with dried.  Remember the substitution ratio is 3:1 fresh to dried. 
  • Parmesan:  finely, freshly grated Parmesan please!  This means Parm grated on the finest holes so it is powdery.
  • Milk:  helps moisten and bind all the ingredients together; don’t skip!

CAN I USE VEGETABLE BROTH INSTEAD?

I do not recommend vegetable broth because it does not have the same enticing, salty flavor as chicken broth. That doesn’t mean you can’t use vegetable broth, but it does mean the Italian Wedding Soup will not taste as rich and flavorful.

Can I use a different Pasta?

I prefer acini de pepe to any other pasta in Italian Wedding Soup.   Their pearl shape provide a sublime texture and they are small enough you enjoy an abundance in every bite without them overwhelming the other ingredients.

That being said, if you cannot find acini de pepe, you may substitute with orzo pasta; my last choice would be ditalini or small shells.

Can I Substitute Other Greens?

Absolutely!  When it comes to what leafy greens to add to Italian Wedding Soup, it comes down to personal preference.  Our household prefers baby spinach but you may also substitute with escarole, kale or endive.

If you choose to use escarole, kale or endive, you will want to add them to the soup when you add the pasta because they take longer to cook than spinach, which wilts almost instantly.

top view of showing how to serve Italian Meatball Soup recipe by garnishing with parsley and basil

Can I Use Frozen Spinach?

Yes!  Frozen spinach has a different feel/texture than fresh spinach, so again it comes down to personal preference.  If using frozen spinach, use about 8-10 oz.  You will want to thaw the spinach (can be done in the microwave), and add it at the very end, then just warm through for a minute or so.  

Can I use fresh herbs in the soup?

I prefer dried herbs in the actual soup because they get added to the soup at the beginning which infuses the broth with flavor.  You may use fresh herbs, but you will need three times the number of fresh herbs to dried herbs which can distract from the soup. Take care to add fresh herbs towards the end of cooking so they stay fresh and flavorful. 

CAN I USE STORE BOUGHT MEATBALLS?

A huge character of Italian Wedding Soup are the unique meatballs made with Italian sausage, beef, fresh herbs and homemade breadcrumbs so I HIGHLY encourage you to make these meatballs from scratch or the soup will not taste like it was intended.  Nothing beats tender, juicy, homemade meatballs cooked from scratch in flavorful broth.  You may use store-bought meatballs, but just keep that in mind.  You will want to use Italian style meatballs.

If you don’t have time to make homemade meatballs, then you can make a batch when you do have time and freeze them for later.

CAN I USE TURKEY MEATBALLS?

You may make your meatballs from ground beef, pork, lamb, turkey or chicken.  Just keep in mind the higher the fat content, the juicier the meatballs. I also like to add a little beef bouillon to my turkey or chicken when I am substituting them for beef. The bouillon adds a rewarding beefy flavor. If using bouillon, you will want to reduce the amount of salt in the meatballs.

IS ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP GLUTEN FREE?

Italian Wedding Soup is not gluten free due to the acini di pepe and the breadcrumbs.  To make gluten free soup, use gluten free pasta and gluten free bread to make breadcrumbs.  You will also want to check the packaging on the Italian sausage to ensure it is gluten free or substitute with ground pork.

HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP

Making Italian Wedding Soup is simple: just shape the meatballs, sauté the veggies, then add the meatballs and pasta directly into the soup to simmer followed by the spinach.  It’s ready in about an hour from start to finish.  The only tedious part of the recipe is chopping the herbs (you can use your food processor) and rolling the small meatballs but you can enlist your kids to help (they don’t have to be perfect!) or roll the meatballs earlier in the day. 

Here’s How to make Italian Wedding Soup:

Make Meatballs.  Line a baking sheet or cutting board with parchment paper to add your finished meatballs to. This way they won’t stick and are easy to move close to the stove. Add egg to a large bowl and whisk.  Add all remaining meatball ingredients and mix with your hands just until combined.  

Shape Meatballs.  Using 1 ½ teaspoons scoop, shape the mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on prepared baking sheet; set aside. 

showing how to make Italian Meatball Soup by rolling ground beef, pork and herbs into meatballs and lining in rows on parchment paper

Sauté Veggies.  Cook onions, carrots, and celery, for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté one minute.  Add beans, chicken broth, and all seasonings.

Add Meatballs.  Cover the soup to bring to a simmer, once simmering, remove lid and add meatballs.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  If you decide to brown the meatballs in the oven first (info to follow), then you can skip this 5-minute simmer.

showing how to make Italian Meatball Soup by adding meatballs to soup to cook in the broth

Add Pasta.  Add acini de pepe and simmer an additional 8-10 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and pasta is tender.  

Add Spinach. Stir in the spinach and lemon juice, allow spinach to wilt, about one minute. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.

showing how to make Italian Meatball Soup by adding spinach to the soup

WHAT SIZE MEATBALLS ARE BEST?

This Italian Wedding soup recipe is best with smaller meatballs, about 1-inch round which can be achieved using a 1 ½ teaspoon cookie scoop.  This size is large enough so you can sink your teeth into a juicy meatball and they don’t just get lost in the soup. They are also large enough so they are hard to overcook and remain super tender. You can make smaller or larger meatballs if you prefer, just take into consideration the cooking time and adjust accordingly.

Do I have to brown the meatballs first?

No!  Authentic Italian Wedding Soup calls for dropping the meatballs directly into the simmering soup to cook just like I do in my Albondigas Soup – this not only saves you time by eliminating the browning step but also infuses the broth with TONS of flavor that cannot be achieved any other way.  Simply skim the fat from the broth prior to serving.

How to Brown Meatballs

If you would like to completely render the fat first, you can brown the meatballs separately in a NONSTICK skillet or bake them on a greased baking rack placed over a baking pan in the oven, the elevated rack will allow any grease to drip off of the meatballs.  

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup.
  • Place a cooking rack on top of the baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.   
  • Add meatball in a single layer without touching.
  • Bake for 18 minutes.
  • Skip simmering the meatballs for 5 minutes called for in the recipe and add the browned meatballs at the same time as the pasta.
top view of a Dutch oven of Italian Meatball Soup recipe with a ladle ready to serve

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP RECIPE TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Use fresh breadcrumbs for the juiciest meatballs.   Store bought breadcrumbs and panko are denser than homemade breadcrumbs; their dry texture means drier meatballs.  For the juiciest meatballs, stick with homemade.
  • Use fresh herbs and dried herbs.  Stick with fresh herbs for the meatballs for maximum flavor and tenderness and dried herbs in the soup for maximum flavor (because the dried herbs simmer with the soup the entire time verses being added at the end).
  • Use a food processor.  You can quickly dice your toasted bread for the homemade breadcrumbs in your food processor. You can also add the onion, garlic and fresh herbs for the meatballs to the bread right in the processor. I do not suggest adding all of the meatball ingredients to the food processor, however, because this results in denser meatballs. Instead, finish mixing the ingredients by hand.
  • Use two meats.  The combination of both mild Italian sausage and lean ground beef is sublime.  I would only substitute with ground turkey or chicken if trying to save some calories as they are not as juicy or richly flavored.
  • Fresh parmesan.  Use quality, freshly grated Parmesan for both the meatballs and to garnish the soup.   You can’t beat the flavor!  Grate on the smallest holes of your grater for powdery parm in the meatballs.
  • Wet hands to make meatballs. If your hands get too sticky when making meatballs, you can either dampen your palms or lightly spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Make meatballs small and uniform.  I suggest using a 1 ½ teaspoon scooper to roll your meatballs so they are a uniform size and cook evenly.  This also saves tons of time!  The small meatballs cooks in the allotted time and deliver juicy meatballs in every bite.
  • Don’t stir meatballs.  The raw meatballs can easily break apart if stirred after they are first added so wait until they have simmered for at least five minutes before gently stirring.  If they break apart though it’s not the end of the world – they still taste delicious -just are no longer meatballs 😉. 
  • Use small pasta.  If you can’t find acini de pepe, then don’t go any larger than small pasta shells or it will throw off the entire soup.  We want small pasta in every bite that is complimentary and not combative.
  • Consistency.  The consistency of this Italian Wedding Soup recipe is up to you!  For a less chunky soup, simply add additional stock or water at the end of cooking. Keep in mind that the pasta will continue to absorb the broth as it sits, so you may need to add additional liquid if not serving right away and when reheating.
  • Scale up or down. This Italian Wedding Soup recipe can easily be scaled up or down. You can scale down if you don’t have a large family and don’t want leftovers or up for more leftovers (they’re fantastic) or for a large crowd.  To scale the recipe, simply use the arrows next to the serving size in the recipe card and it will change the ingredient measurements for you. 

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP VARIATIONS

This Italian Wedding Soup recipe is comforting in its classic ingredients and flavor, but can also be used as a springboard to make it your own:

  • Swap greens. Substitute the spinach with kale, escarole, endive or cabbage. 
  • Customize vegetables. I love the combo of veggies in this Italian Wedding Soup recipe- but there’s a lot of flexibility!  Other delicious vegetable options include green beans, bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, zucchini, corn, peas, and cabbage.  Just be aware of veggie cooking times – for example, green beans take longer to cook than peas and cabbage which just takes minutes.
  • Use less veggies. You can also go minimalistic and just add spinach or a couple veggies of choosing.
  • Go low carb.  Use cauliflower rice instead of pasta.
  • Use rice:  Swap the pasta for long-grain white rice or stir in cooked brown rice when ready to serve.  Long grain white rice will take 8-12 minutes to simmer in the soup. 
up close of scooping up authentic Italian Meatball Soup recipe with a ladle to serve

HOW TO MAKE CREAMY ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP

Italian Wedding Soup can also be made tantalizingly creamy by adding flour and half and half with cornstarch in place of all chicken broth.

  • Cook vegetables with 4 tablespoons butter.
  • Sprinkle ⅓ cup flour over the onions and carrots/celery the last minute of cooking and cook for one minute.
  • Instead of using all chicken broth, use 6 cups chicken broth and 4 cups half and half mixed with 2 tablespoons cornstarch OR 4 cups heavy cream without the cornstarch.

WHAT CAN I PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME?

This Italian Wedding Soup recipe is very simple but it does require chopping some veggies and assembling the meatballs which can take some time.  Fortunately, you can do both in advance!

  • Vegetables:  The onions, celery, carrots and garlic can all be chopped ahead of time. Store the onions (minus the ½ up for the meatballs), carrots and celery in airtight container together and the garlic in a separate container/bag in the refrigerator.
  • Assemble meatballs:  You can completely assemble the meatballs according to directions.  To store, line uncooked meatballs on parchment paper and tightly wrap with foil or plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours until ready to use then simply drop uncooked meatballs directly into the soup.
  • Freeze meatballs.  You can also flash freeze the raw meatballs on the parchment lined baking sheet for 1-2 hours, then transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze for 3-4 months. More detailed instructions to follow.

CAN I FREEZE THE MEATBALLS?

Absolutely! I like to double the meatball recipe and use half in the soup now and freeze half for another day.  Now, all I have to do is drop the frozen meatballs into the simmering soup!

  • Line raw (or browned) meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
  • Place entire baking tray in the freezer. If your freezer can’t accommodate your baking sheet then use a small tray and freeze in batches.  Freeze for 1-2 hours until solid.
  • Transfer meatballs to a freezer safe bag or container.
  • Label meatballs and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to use, add frozen meatballs directly to the simmering soup and simmer 10 minutes before adding the pasta.
top view of showing how to serve Italian Meatball Soup recipe by garnishing with parsley and basil

CAN I MAKE ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes!  As with all soups, Italian Wedding Soup tastes even better the next day so feel free to make it ahead of time for lunches or dinners.  Just be aware the pasta will absorb a lot of the broth, so you’ll want to add some additional water to thin the soup to desired consistency.

HOW DO I REHEAT ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP?

  • Stove: You can reheat large batches of Italian Wedding Soup on the stove over medium low heat, stirring gently until warmed through. Add additional water or broth as needed to reach desired consistency. 
  • Microwave: For smaller batches or individual servings, you can reheat the soup in the microwave. Transfer soup to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.  Stir in additional broth or water to reach desired consistency. 

HOW LONG IS ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP GOOD FOR?

Italian Wedding Soup should be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator.  When properly stored, it is good for 3-5 days.

Can You Freeze Italian Wedding Soup?

Yes!  If you are making this Italian Wedding Soup ahead of time strictly to freeze then I would omit the pasta and spinach and add fresh when reheating.  If you are freezing leftovers, then you may freeze the soup with the pasta and the spinach.   The pasta freezes much better than other pastas because it is so small.  

TO FREEZE ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP:

  1. Cool: Allow soup to cool completely before freezing to preserve the integrity of the ingredients and so it doesn’t linger in the “danger zone” temperature for too long.
  2. Package:  Transfer soup to a freezer safe container or smaller containers. 
  3. Freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  4. Defrost/Reheat. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat on the stove or microwave per instructions.

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP?

Italian Wedding Soup is a meal-in-one that is perfectly delicious with crusty bread, a big green salad or fruit salad and any of the following:

side view of authentic Italian Meatball Soup recipe with meatballs and acini de pepe

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Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup is a traditional Italian soup made with juicy, herb-Parmesan infused pork meatballs, acini de pepe, carrots, celery, and spinach all simmered in a bold, rich, aromatic, broth - it is MEGA flavorful comfort in a bowl! This recipe is also all made in one pot – no need to bake/sear the meatballs first! This Italian Wedding Soup recipe is customizable with your favorite veggies, favorite pasta and you can even use chicken/turkey instead of Italian sausage/beef for the meatballs. Italian Wedding Soup is make-ahead friendly (tips and tricks included!) stores and reheats beautifully, is freezer friendly irresistibly delicious!
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Prep Time: 45 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins

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Ingredients

MEATBALLS

  • 1 large egg
  • 8 oz. lean ground beef
  • 8 oz. mild Italian sausage casings removed
  • 1 slice white sandwich bread TOASTED, crust removed, diced
  • 1/2 cup freshly finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 1 TBS dried
  • 1 tablespoon minced chopped basil or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or ½ tsp dried
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

SOUP

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Remaining onion from meatballs
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans rinsed and drained
  • 10 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried oregano, dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup acini di pepe (uncooked) may sub orzo
  • 4 oz fresh baby spinach trimmed (about 3 packed cups)
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice to taste

Instructions

  • Meatballs: Line a baking sheet or cutting board with parchment paper; set aside. Add egg to a large bowl and whisk. Add all remaining meatball ingredients and mix with your hands just until combined. Using 1 ½ teaspoons scoop, shape the mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on prepared baking sheet; set aside.
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven/soup pot. Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté for 5 minutes; add garlic and sauté one minute.
  • Add beans, chicken broth, and all seasonings. Cover the soup to bring to a simmer, once simmering remove lid and add meatballs. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add pasta and simmer an additional 8-10 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and pasta is tender.
  • Stir in the spinach and lemon juice, allow spinach to wilt, about one minute. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. Add additional broth or water if desired for a less chunky soup.

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Recipe Notes

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Italian sausage: adds tons of flavor to the meatballs instead of using just ground pork.  You may use ground pork, however, if that’s what you have on hand.   You may also substitute the meats withground turkey or chicken.  Just keep in mind the higher the fat content, the juicier the meatballs. I also like to add a little beef bouillon to my turkey or chicken when I am substituting them for beef. The bouillon adds a rewarding beefy flavor. If using bouillon, you will want to reduce the amount of salt in the meatballs.
  • Breadcrumbs:  homemade breadcrumbs boast a looser texture than store-bought breadcrumbs which makes for juicer meatballs.  You may, however, substitute with ½ cup panko breadcrumbs.
  • Acini di pepe: you should be able to find this round pasta in most grocery stores or you can Amazon it.  If you cannot find acini de pepe, you may substitute with orzo pasta; my last choices would be ditalini or small shells.
  • Spinach: you may substitute with escarole, kale or endive.  If you do so, you will want to add them to the soup when you add the pasta because they take longer to cook than spinach, which wilts almost instantly.  You may also use frozen spinach but it has a different feel/texture than fresh spinach, so it comes down to personal preference.  If using frozen spinach, use about 8-10 oz.  You will want to thaw the spinach (can be done in the microwave), and add it at the very end, then just warm through for a minute or so.  

Do I have to brown the meatballs first?

No!  Authentic Italian Wedding Soup calls for dropping the meatballs directly into the simmering soup to cook just like I do in my Albondigas Soup – this not only saves you time by eliminating the browning step but also infuses the broth with TONS of flavor that cannot be achieved any other way.  Simply skim the fat from the broth prior to serving.

If you would like to completely render the fat first, you can brown the meatballs separately in a NONSTICK skillet or bake them on a greased baking rack placed over a baking pan in the oven, the elevated rack will allow any grease to drip off of the meatballs.  

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup.
  • Place a cooking rack on top of the baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.   
  • Add meatball in a single layer without touching.
  • Bake for 18 minutes.
  • Skip simmering the meatballs for 5 minutes called for in the recipe and add the browned meatballs at the same time as the pasta.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use fresh breadcrumbs for the juiciest meatballs.   Store bought breadcrumbs and panko are denser than homemade breadcrumbs; their dry texture means drier meatballs.  For the juiciest meatballs, stick with homemade.
  • Use fresh herbs and dried herbs.  Stick with fresh herbs for the meatballs for maximum flavor and tenderness and dried herbs in the soup for maximum flavor (because the dried herbs simmer with the soup the entire time verses being added at the end).
  • Use a food processor.  You can quickly dice your toasted bread for the homemade breadcrumbs in your food processor. You can also add the onion, garlic and fresh herbs for the meatballs to the bread right in the processor. I do not suggest adding all of the meatball ingredients to the food processor, however, because this results in denser meatballs. Instead, finish mixing the ingredients by hand.
  • Use two meats.  The combination of both mild Italian sausage and lean ground beef is sublime.  I would only substitute with ground turkey or chicken if trying to save some calories as they are not as juicy or richly flavored.
  • Fresh parmesan.  Use quality, freshly grated Parmesan for both the meatballs and to garnish the soup.   You can’t beat the flavor!  Grate on the smallest holes of your grater for powdery parm in the meatballs.
  • Wet hands to make meatballs. If your hands get too sticky when making meatballs, you can either dampen your palms or lightly spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Make meatballs small and uniform.  I suggest using a 1 ½ teaspoon scooper to roll your meatballs so they are a uniform size and cook evenly.  This also saves tons of time!  The small meatballs cooks in the allotted time and deliver juicy meatballs in every bite.
  • Don’t stir meatballs.  The raw meatballs can easily break apart if stirred after they are first added so wait until they have simmered for at least five minutes before gently stirring.  If they break apart though it’s not the end of the world – they still taste delicious -just are no longer meatballs 😉. 
  • Use small pasta.  If you can’t find acini de pepe, then don’t go any larger than small pasta shells or it will throw off the entire soup.  We want small pasta in every bite that is complimentary and not combative.
  • Consistency.  The consistency of this Italian Wedding Soup recipe is up to you!  For a less chunky soup, simply add additional stock or water at the end of cooking. Keep in mind that the pasta will continue to absorb the broth as it sits, so you may need to add additional liquid if not serving right away and when reheating.
  • Scale up or down. This Italian Wedding Soup recipe can easily be scaled up or down. You can scale down if you don’t have a large family and don’t want leftovers or up for more leftovers (they’re fantastic) or for a large crowd.  To scale the recipe, simply use the arrows next to the serving size in the recipe card and it will change the ingredient measurements for you. 

Prep Ahead

This Italian Wedding Soup recipe is very simple but it does require chopping some veggies and assembling the meatballs which can take some time.  Fortunately, you can do both in advance!

  • Vegetables:  The onions, celery, carrots and garlic can all be chopped ahead of time. Store the onions (minus the ½ up for the meatballs), carrots and celery in airtight container together and the garlic in a separate container/bag in the refrigerator.
  • Assemble meatballs:  You can completely assemble the meatballs according to directions.  To store, line uncooked meatballs on parchment paper and tightly wrap with foil or plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours until ready to use then simply drop uncooked meatballs directly into the soup.
  • Freeze meatballs.  You can also flash freeze the raw meatballs on the parchment lined baking sheet for 1-2 hours, then transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze for 3-4 months. More detailed instructions to follow.

How to Freeze Meatballs

I like to double the meatball recipe and use half in the soup now and freeze half for another day.  Now, all I have to do is drop the frozen meatballs into the simmering soup!

  • Line raw (or browned) meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
  • Place entire baking tray in the freezer. If your freezer can’t accommodate your baking sheet then use a small tray and freeze in batches.  Freeze for 1-2 hours until solid.
  • Transfer meatballs to a freezer safe bag or container.
  • Label meatballs and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to use, add frozen meatballs directly to the simmering soup and simmer 10 minutes before adding the pasta.

How to Freeze Soup

If you are making this Italian Wedding Soup ahead of time strictly to freeze
then I would omit the pasta and spinach and add fresh when reheating.  If
you are freezing leftovers, then you may freeze the soup with the pasta and the spinach.   The pasta freezes much better than other pastas because it
is so small. 

  • Cool: Allow soup to cool completely before freezing to preserve the integrity of the ingredients and so it doesn’t linger in the “danger zone” temperature for too long.
  • Package:  Transfer soup to a freezer safe container or smaller containers. 
  • Freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Defrost/Reheat. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat on the stove or microwave per instructions.

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10 Comments

  1. Monica says

    Hello,
    Just wondering when you say in the soup ingredients, “Remaining onion from meatballs,” do you have a specific amount? Or is it just the leftover of a whole onion after the 1/2 cup is used for the meatballs?

    Thank you! I can’t wait to make this for dinner this week! I LOVE your recipes! They are the best!

    Monica

    • Jen says

      Great question, I will clarify in the recipe – but it is whatever is left from a whole onion after you use the half cup in the meatballs. Enjoy!

  2. Margaret Rhodes says

    Oh my goodness!! This soup was so good. Best wedding soup I have ever tasted., and by far the easiest to make. Your recipes have never failed to be amazing

    • Jen says

      I am thrilled you made it already and loved it! Thank you so much Margaret for taking the time to comment and make my day!

  3. Lindsay says

    Hi! This looks delicious! Do you think it could be made in a crockpot or Instant Pot? Obviously want to safely cook the meatballs through. I just love having soup in the crockpot ready to go when we get home from sports practices in TJs evening. Thanks for your site & recipes. It’s fantastic!

    • Jen says

      Great question Lindsay! Yes, you can cook the soup with raw meatballs in the crockpot but I would cook the pasta separately (you can do it in advance) and add it when ready to serve. The meatballs will require 5-6 hours on low and 3-4 on high. Enjoy!

  4. Monica Abarca says

    Another amazing recipe! Just made this for dinner tonight and my family loved it! Thank you again for all of the time, effort, and dedication you put into developing quality recipes! 🙂

    • Jen says

      Yay! I’m so pleased it was a winner with the entire family! Thank you for making my recipes, I love hearing you’re enjoying them!

  5. Jessica says

    I am not a good cook but can generally follow directions. I’d only had canned Italian Wedding Soup but it’s one of my favorites so I wanted to give it a try. I am almost 40 and THIS SOUP IS THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER MADE. I cannot get over how good it was. I just ate the last of it after a week and already want to make it again. I think I could eat this every day! Even my very picky boyfriend admitted it was delicious. So so good.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your awesome comment Jessica! I love hearing how much you loved this soup and am honored it is the “best thing” you’ve ever made! Thank you!!

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