Italian Wedding Soup

$8.89 recipe / $1.48 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 9 votes
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Chicken noodle soup is great and all, but have you tried Italian Wedding Soup?? This classic soup shares a lot of the same cozy ingredients as chicken noodle soup, but with one huge advantage: tender and flavorful homemade meatballs! The meatballs are packed with herbs and spices that flavor the soup and make this Italian Wedding Soup recipe extra special. So if you want to change up your winter soup game, give this Italian Wedding Soup a try! I think you’re really going to like it.

Overhead view of a bowl full of Italian Wedding Soup with bread on the side.

What Is Italian Wedding Soup?

This hearty soup is a combination of vegetables, greens, meatballs, and pasta all simmered in chicken broth to make an incredibly flavorful and filling soup. And, contrary to how it may sound, Italian Wedding Soup is not named so because it’s typically served at weddings. The name is actually a mistranslation of its Italian name, minestra maritata, which translates directly to “marriage soup,” referring to the marriage of ingredients in the soup.

There’s also some disagreement over whether this dish originated in Italy or Spain, as it is popular in both regions of the world. As with most dishes that have been around for generations, there are many different variations, and today we’re making my interpretation based on what I have available, but if you’d like to make an authentic Italian Wedding Soup, check out this version from The Kitchen Whisperer.

Ingredients for Italian Wedding Soup

Here’s what you’ll need to make a big cozy pot of Italian Wedding Soup:

  • Vegetables: This soup starts with a classic mix of soup vegetables like onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Later I add in some fresh spinach, although traditional Italian wedding soup usually uses escarole as the green element.
  • Chicken Broth: Chicken broth makes up the bulk of this soup, so make sure you’re using a good quality broth or stock that has a lot of flavor. We like to use Better Than Bouillon to make broth because it’s inexpensive and has tons of flavor.
  • Pasta: You can use any small-shaped pasta here. We had some leftover pearl couscous in the studio that I wanted to use up, so I used that, but you could also use acini de pepe (very similar to large pearl couscous), orzo, ditalini, pastina, or any other tiny-shaped pasta.
  • Italian Sausage: I use Italian sausage as the base for my meatballs because it’s already pre-seasoned and makes every meatball super flavorful.
  • Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs help bind the meatballs and keep them moist and tender.
  • Egg: Egg combines with the breadcrumbs to act as a binder for the meatballs.
  • Parmesan: Parmesan gives extra umami and flavor to the meatballs.
  • Seasoning: To keep things simple, we season both the meatballs and soup with a pre-made Italian seasoning blend, plus a little extra salt and pepper as needed!

What Else Can I Add?

If you want to “soup up” your Italian Wedding Soup and take it to the next level, try adding a few Parmesan rinds to the soup as it simmers for extra umami in the broth, or top each bowl with a heaping dose of freshly grated Parmesan. Use homemade chicken stock for the broth to make this soup extra special, or you can also experiment with thickening the broth with a whisked egg. One final twist that I love doing with a lot of soups is adding a squeeze of fresh lemon at the end to brighten it all up!

How to Cook the Meatballs

You have a few options when it comes to cooking the meatballs for this soup. The easiest method, and the method that I think creates the juiciest meatballs, is to simply add the raw meatballs to the simmering soup and allow them to simmer in the liquid until cooked through (about 10-15 min.).

The only drawback to boiling the meatballs in the soup is that this method does not create any pretty browned color on the surface of the meatballs. If the appearance of the meatballs is important to you, you can sauté the meatballs in a hot skillet with some butter until browned on the outside, then add them to the soup and simmer until cooked through.

Overhead view of a pot of Italian Wedding Soup being stirred.
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Italian Wedding Soup

5 from 9 votes
This cozy Italian Wedding Soup recipe features tender and flavorful meatballs, vegetables, and pasta in a delicious chicken broth. 
Overhead view of a bowl full of Italian Wedding Soup.
Servings 6 (1.5 cups each)
Prep 30 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 1 hour

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs ($0.30)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.44)
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning ($0.05)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper ($0.01)
  • 1 lb. ground Italian sausage (hot, mild, or sweet) ($3.99)
  • 1 large egg ($0.11)

Soup

  • 1 yellow onion ($0.32)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 3 carrots ($0.47)
  • 3 stalks celery ($0.67)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning ($0.10)
  • 6 cups chicken broth ($0.63)
  • 1/2 cup small pasta* ($0.16)
  • 4 cups fresh spinach ($1.15)

Instructions 

  • Begin by making the meatballs. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
  • Add the Italian sausage, breadcrumb mixture, and egg to a large bowl and use your hands to mix them together until evenly combined. Divide and shape the mixture into 32 small meatballs, about 1 Tbsp each. Set the meatballs aside.
  • Finely dice the onion, carrots, and celery, and mince the garlic. Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and heat over medium. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft. Add the carrot and celery and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, or until the celery begins to soften.
  • Add the Italian seasoning and chicken broth to the soup, stir to combine, then place a lid on top and bring it up to a boil.
  • Once the soup is boiling, add the meatballs to the soup and continue to boil until the meatballs are cooked through (about 10 minutes). Or, if you prefer browned meatballs, you can cook them in a skillet with butter first over medium heat until browned on the outside, then transfer to the boiling soup to finish cooking.
  • Add the pasta to the soup and continue to boil until the pasta is tender (about 7 minutes).
  • Finally, stir in the fresh spinach until wilted. Give the soup a taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Equipment

Notes

*Use any very small-shaped pasta like acini de pepe, pearl couscous, orzo, ditalini, pastina, or any other tiny-shaped pasta. If using a slightly larger pasta, you may want to increase the quantity to one cup. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cupsCalories: 448kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 18gFat: 31gSodium: 1646mgFiber: 3g
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Side view of Italian Wedding Soup in a bowl.

How to Make Italian Wedding Soup – Step by Step Photos

Meatball dry ingredients in a bowl.

Prepare the meatballs first. In a bowl, combine ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs, ¼ grated Parmesan cheese, ½ tsp Italian seasoning, ⅛ tsp salt, and ⅛ tsp pepper.

Bowl with meat, breadcrumbs, and egg.

Add one pound of ground Italian sausage (hot, sweet, or mild) to a large bowl along with the breadcrumb mixture, and one large egg. Use your hands to mix these ingredients until evenly combined.

Shaped meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Divide and shape the mixture into 32 small meatballs, about 1 Tbsp each. Set the meatballs aside.

Chopped Vegetables for Italian Wedding Soup on a cutting board.

Chop one yellow onion, finely dice three stalks of celery and three carrots, and mince two cloves of garlic

Cooked vegetables in the soup pot with Italian seasoning and chicken broth being poured in.

Add the onion and garlic to a large soup pot with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft. Add the carrot and celery and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, or just until the celery begins to soften. Add one tsp of Italian seasoning and six cups of chicken broth, then stir to combine. Place a lid on top and allow the soup to come up to a boil.

Browned meatballs in a skillet.

Add the meatballs to the boiling soup and boil for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Or, if you want browned meatballs, melt a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the meatballs and brown them on each side. It’s okay if they’re not cooked through, you can add them to the simmering soup to finish cooking.

Pasta being added to the soup.

Make sure the soup is still boiling, then add ½ cup of a tiny-shaped pasta like acini de pepe, pearled couscous, ditalini, pastina, or orzo. Simmer the pasta in the soup until tender (about 7 minutes).

Spinach added to the soup pot.

Finally, add about 4 cups of fresh spinach to the soup and stir it in until wilted (this should only take about a minute).

Finished Italian Wedding Soup in the pot being stirred.

Give the soup a final taste and adjust the salt or other seasonings to your liking.

Overhead view of Italian Wedding Soup in the pot with a ladle.

Serve hot and enjoy every cozy and hearty spoonful!

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  1. Made this tonight for supper and it was delicious! Used hot Italian sausage. Probably a bit spicy for our tastes. Used a #60 cookie scoop to make the meatballs. Made 39 small meatballs. Meatballs baked on parchment paper in a 400° F oven for about 20 minutes. Would recommend turning 1/2 way through the time to get even browning. Also served the ditalini pasta on the side. Saved the pasta water after cooking the pasta for the liquid in the soup which I think gave the soup body.
    Could certainly be held in a crockpot for a short time if pasta was served on the side and the spinach added just prior to serving.
    Served with no-knead bread and apple salad (chopped apple, craisins, chopped toasted pecans, and a dressing of vanilla Greek yogurt).

  2. I made this with ground vegetarian sausage and “no-chicken” stock. It turned out great.

  3. I find that most Italian sausage from the supermarket is quite bland, speaking for Italians! I like to add additional fennel seed, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp per pound of meat. I like to crush the whole seeds in a mortar or small grinder.

  4. I used premade meatballs I already had and substituted kale for the spinach. Great flavor and fast and easy to put together. Thanks for another great recipe to add to my soup rotation!

  5. This soup is delicious! I had to change a few things to accommodate a special diet but even that didn’t take away any flavor. I think using exact recipe ingredients would have been even better but it’s hard to see how. I used chicken Italian sausage, and potato starch instead of breadcrumbs. I diced a potato instead of using pasta. I still want to give this recipe a 5 star rating because of its amazing versatility. I did find escarole and loved it. There is a mild bitter bite to the flavor which came out well after wilting it.

  6. I’ve been making Italian wedding for years just as my nonna wrote it but hers has so many more steps and this one was just as flavourful and so much easier! I used Kirkland organic chicken broth and lots of salt and pepper but it was still missing something (every batch of soup is different! I always add different seasonings and garnishes depending on the taste of the batch) so I added some Better Than Bouillon and parsley in addition to everything else. Superb!

    I happened to find escarole today and I like that better than spinach for tradition’s sake, but both are great!

  7. Made this tonight and loved it! Seriously one of the best things I made recently. I really feel like budget bytes is attuned to my taste buds! I had one medium egg instead of large, and it seemed like my meatball mixture wasn’t coming together. Should I add another egg if I notice this next time or just mix more? I didn’t want to mix more and knead it more in case the meat got tough!

    1. I would avoid mixing more, yes. maybe lightly scramble a second egg and add just a bit of it instead of the whole thing. Two medium eggs might be too much moisture. :)

  8. would this reheat well in a crockpot? I’m not sure how the noodles would hold up, but I want to bring this to a work potluck and make the night before if possible.

    1. I’ve cooked the pasta separately and refrigerated it and added it at serving time. For this, I’d heat the soup back up in the slow cooker and then add the cooked pasta. It would come up to temp quickly and be al dente!

  9. I have a version of this that I love, but you’ve given me some new ideas to try, like adding the Parmesan rinds. When I do the meatballs for this, I brown them in the soup pot first, then remove them to a plate, leaving behind those flavorful browned bits in the pan. I remove most of the fat, too, but leave enough to saute the veg.

  10. LOVE soup season! This is a really wonderful meatball recipe–don’t leave out the Parm! I make mine for soup very small, only about half an inch in diameter, but definitely make them larger for other purposes. Another tip–when I do make meatballs, I make a lot, bake them in the oven on a sheet pan (they won’t be quite as perfectly round) and then freeze the extras. A bag of cooked meatballs in the freezer is fast dinner gold!

    Way too many exclamation points here, but you can tell I’m enthusiastic about this particular budget recipe

    1. Thanks for the tips and enthusiasm, Janet! So very appreciated, as always! :)

    2. Love this soup! So flavorful and easy to make. Usually cook the pasta separately then add to the soup bowl. I have used Kale and spinach both, depending on what looks good at the store. Freezes beautifully and makes for a quick lunch or dinner

  11. I’m really excited to try this. I’d love to see if I can find escarole, just for fun. Your idea of using Italian sausage is brilliant. I even have chicken ones in my freezer which would go well. Very inspiring!