This easy-to-make, authentic Italian wedding soup recipe is loaded with savory meatballs, hearty veggies, and mini pasta, all simmered together to create the perfect combination of flavors. Don't forget the freshly grated cheese and crusty bread to make it all come together for a meal that'll warm you from head to toe.
The name "wedding" actually comes from the Italian phrase "minestra maritata," which means "married soup" in English. It's called that because the flavors of the meatballs and veggies are perfectly "married" together to create a tasty and harmonious soup!
This soup is a complete meal in itself, with hearty meatballs, vibrant veggies, and mini pasta all swimming in a clear, flavorful broth.
The Italian meatballs are the real stars here – they're small but pack a punch of flavor, making every bite a delight. These meatballs have withstood the test of time - it's a treasured family recipe that's been passed down for generations and is a staple in our home.
My traditional meatball recipe is made with beef, pork, and veal, making them incredibly tender and juicy, especially when simmered in the soup broth. But, for Italian wedding soup I usually make them with just beef to keep it simple.
Fresh leafy greens add lots of texture and nutrients to the soup, which balances out the richness of the meatballs. I love using escarole, which is classic, but you can use any hearty green you have on hand.
The best part? It's all topped off with freshly grated cheese that melts into the soup, adding another layer of creamy, salty deliciousness.
Why this recipe works
- The Italian meatballs are tender, flavorful and add depth and richness to the broth.
- Veggies like carrots and escarole add hearty nutrients to the dish.
- Mini pasta gets cooked on the side so it doesn't swell up and absorb all the broth.
- Super easy to make, and it all comes together in under an hour!
- Freezes really well - you can double the batch and save some for later!
- Ground Meat: For the mini polpettes, I used half of my authentic Italian meatballs recipe, but instead of baking, then simmering them in tomato sauce, they get dropped right into the soup. I use all beef when making Italian wedding soup, as opposed to using a combination of beef, pork and veal when I make them for Sunday sauce. You can use whichever meat you prefer.
- Stock: A good quality stock or broth gives the soup a great foundation of savory flavor. I recommend using homemade chicken stock (or turkey stock) for the best results. If you're short on time, a good quality store-bought stock or bone broth will work nicely.
- Veggies: For the base of this soup, I used the Italian soffrito (celery, carrots, and onions) and added some curly escarole to give it a bit of green and add some extra nutrition. You could also use spinach, kale, chard or any other leafy green you prefer.
- Pasta: To really make the best Italian wedding soup, I recommend using acini di pepe pasta (the little dots) or pastina. They're both tiny and perfect for this soup - plus, they cook quickly! If you can't find either of these, you can substitute it with any small-shaped pasta like ditalini or orzo.
- Cheese: I use freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese in both the meatballs and for finishing the soup. The salty, nutty flavor of this cheese complements the soup perfectly and adds an extra layer of deliciousness. You can also use Parmesan cheese if you prefer.
*Full ingredient list with quantities is in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Dutch Oven: Using a Dutch oven or a large, heavy pot is the best way to make this soup recipe. It helps to distribute heat evenly, and the heavy bottom prevents any burning or sticking.
- Microplane Grater: This is the best tool for finely grating the cheese on top of your soup. It creates a perfect light texture that melts effortlessly into the hot broth.
1) Grab a large bowl and combine breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and parsley. Finely grate garlic and onion using a microplane grater.
2) Add milk and eggs, and mix with a fork until well combined
3) Next, add the meat. Mix it in with a fork or your hands, ensuring even distribution of the breadcrumb mixture.
4) Wet your hands and form small meatballs, about two teaspoons each. Roll them between your palms until nice and spherical.
5) In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook carrots, celery, and onion until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.
6) Pour in chicken stock and add bay leaves. Bring to a rolling boil.
7) Carefully add meatballs to the soup. No need to bake or fry them - they will poach in the broth, which will keep them juicy and enrich the broth with even more flavor. Reduce heat to medium-low and let them simmer for about 5 minutes.
8) Stir in escarole until wilted. Cover the pot and let it cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. It doesn't need to be simmered for hours.
9) While the soup cooks, boil water in another pot. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and toss with a little olive oil.
10) Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
When ready to serve, place some pasta in each bowl and ladle the soup over the top.
Tips for success
- Remember to take the meat out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before making the meatballs. It'll make it easier to mix!
- Don't over-mix the meat, or it'll end up tough. To prevent that, make sure all the ingredients are mixed well together before adding the meat.
- I like to rub my hands with either a bit of water or oil when forming the meatballs.
- If you prefer a richer broth, you can use beef or veal stock instead of chicken stock.
- To prevent the meatballs from falling apart, make sure to cook them at a gentle simmer rather than a rolling boil.
- For an extra boost of flavor, you can add some parmesan rind into the broth while it simmers.
- The pasta gets cooked separately and served on the side to prevent it from swelling up and getting soggy while absorbing all of the broth. Trust me, it's worth the extra step!
- Feel free to substitute different veggies in this soup. Some great options are spinach, kale, or even zucchini.
Serve yourself a bowl of this warm Italian wedding soup and a chunk of crusty bread (or a piece of farinata) to soak up all the goodness. Add a sprinkle of freshly grated cheese for an extra burst of flavor.
Some people like to add shredded chicken or turkey to their Italian wedding soup. This is what my aunt Coleen does, and she serves it every year as a first course at Thanksgiving!
If you want to impress your guests, serve this soup as a first course for an Italian-inspired dinner party. Follow it up with some homemade pasta like gnocchi or lasagna, and finish off with a classic Italian dessert.
Italian wedding soup, also known as "minestra maritata" or "minestra di verdure con polpette," is a traditional Italian dish made with meatballs, vegetables, and pasta in a clear broth.
Despite its name, the soup is not actually served at Italian weddings. The term "wedding" in the name refers to the marriage of flavors in the dish, as well as how well it pairs with other dishes.
Some also believe that the tradition comes from the idea that a good marriage takes time and effort, just like this soup!
To freeze, allow the soup to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag. It can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat on the stove or in the microwave. You may need to add a little bit of water or broth if the soup has thickened.
A light, crisp white wine like a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with the flavors in this soup. Some people even like to add a little bit of white wine to the broth for an extra layer of flavor.
But feel free to pair it with your favorite wine- after all, marriage is about finding the perfect match!
Yes, you can make this soup in the crockpot.
You will need to sauté the carrots, celery, and onion, then add the other ingredients. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or high for 2-3 hours.
Add the pasta in the last hour of cooking.
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