Italian Wedding Soup is a marriage of flavors made in heaven! Ground sausage and beef are rolled into meatballs, simmered with flavorful broth and pasta, and served with leafy greens in this authentic recipe. You can also easily make a few simple substitutions for a healthier version!
Contrary to popular belief, Italian Wedding Soup did not get its name from being served at Italian weddings.
Instead, the term “wedding” comes from the Italian phrase “minestra maritata” and refers to the marriage of ingredients in a soup to get the most incredible flavors!
In the case of this soup, it’s a beautiful marriage of meat and green vegetables. (Much like you’d find in a Zuppa Toscana Soup!)
While I’m not normally one to compare Evolving Table recipes to the Food Network greats, the recipe you’ll find below is just as good (if not better!) than Giada’s, Ina’s, and yes, even the Barefoot Contessa’s!
What makes it so good is the execution of every individual component in the dish.
The Italian-style meatballs are bursting with fresh parsley and Parmesan flavors.
The broth is seasoned to perfection with salt, pepper, and garlic.
And the round acini de pepe pasta has the best chewy bite.
The one thing this soup DOES have in common with weddings, however, is that it can serve A LOT of people!
So feel free to either invite a few friends over, or freeze a bunch to enjoy all winter long, because this is sure to become one of your new favorite soup recipes!
The simple ingredients you need to make this Italian wedding soup recipe include:
- Ground meat. A mixture of ground beef and ground pork sausage are used. You can substitute for ground turkey and turkey sausage to make it healthier. Opt for a leaner meat to accompany the sausage, such as 93/7 or 90/10. You can save time and buy store-bought meatballs, but they won’t have nearly the same flavor!
- Breadcrumbs. Already seasoned Italian-style breadcrumbs allow you to skip a few ingredients. The gluten-free kind work great, too. Or, combine plain breadcrumbs with 1 teaspoon of homemade Italian Seasoning made with oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
- Parmesan cheese. Grated, not shredded, is ideal so it evenly disperses throughout the meatballs. This gives a salty bite while helping to hold the meatballs together.
- Egg. One large egg acts as the glue for the meatballs, so don’t leave it out.
- Parsley. Finely chop this fresh herb so that it evenly mixes into the meatballs. Choose either flat or curly parsley.
- Vegetables. A mirepoix containing onion, celery, and carrots adds flavor and nutrition.
- Garlic. Lots of fresh minced garlic is included in both the meatballs and in the soup. You can swap it out for garlic powder if you have to.
- Broth. Regular sodium chicken broth creates the base. You can select reduced sodium instead and adjust the salt to taste.
- Spinach. Baby leaves are the most tender and are best coarsely chopped. You can also try kale, escarole, or other greens.
- Pasta. Acini de pepe are round balls with a chewy bite, and is the classic type of pasta for this recipe. Orzo or another small shape can be subbed if you have a hard time finding the other.
How to Make Italian Wedding Soup
The basic steps for making Italian wedding soup are simple to follow. Please see the recipe card below for more detailed ingredient amounts.
Mix the Meatballs
Add all of the meatball ingredients to a large bowl. Mix with a spatula, potato masher, or by hand.
Scoop out 2 teaspoons at a time and roll in your hands to form 1 meatball. You can use a metal scooper to make it easy. Repeat until you use all of the mixture which should result in about 48 meatballs.
If your hands get sticky simply spritz them with a bit of non-stick cooking spray and continue rolling.
Sear in Pot
Arrange half of the meatballs in a Dutch oven or large pot coated with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sear for 4-5 minutes, occasionally rotating them so that all sides turn brown. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.
Transfer the seared meatballs to a plate lined with a paper towel so they can drain.
Vegetables & Broth
Keep the drippings from the meatballs in the pot, mix in the vegetables, and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Pour in the broth and scrape the bottom of the pot while stirring everything together. You don’t want any loose bits left stuck to the pot since they may burn while the soup is cooking.
Boil & Simmer
Bring the broth and vegetable mixture to a boil. Next, add in the pasta, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (optional) and meatballs.
Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 7-9 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
Stir in Spinach
Toss in the spinach and stir until well combined.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Meal Prep and Storage
- To Prep-Ahead: Make and sear the meatballs ahead of time. You can even make the entire recipe up until boiling the pasta. Because it will continue to expand after cooking, it is best to wait to mix in the pasta until just before serving.
- To Store: Seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-5 days.
- To Freeze: Place in a freezer-safe airtight container and freeze for up to 3-4 months.
- To Reheat: Return to a pot on the stove, or simply microwave it. The pasta will absorb a lot of the broth while sitting, so you may need to add more liquid in order to thin it out.
Here are some adjustments and substitutions you can make to help this recipe fit your dietary requirements:
- Gluten-Free – Select gluten-free breadcrumbs and gluten-free pasta varieties.
- Dairy-Free – Substitute the Parmesan cheese for a plant-based type.
- Healthier – Use ground turkey and turkey sausage to reduce the calories.
- Less Sodium – Choose a reduced sodium broth, and check the breadcrumbs label. You can also make your own homemade Italian seasoning instead.
- Extra Nutrition – Double the veggies and greens to get a boost in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and calcium.
The phrase “minestra maritata” in Italian translates to “married soup”, referring to the bringing together of flavors. In English we call this marriage of meat and vegetables “Italian Wedding Soup”.
They are made from a combination of beef and ground pork sausage, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings.
While it is possible someone has served this recipe at their wedding, it is not a traditional wedding dish.
A fresh green salad and crusty bread pairs beautifully with this soup.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Combo of meats. Use both beef and sausage to get the best results.
- ‘Tis the season… For seasoned breadcrumbs! Italian-style breadcrumbs save so much time and have incredible flavor!
- Use a scoop. Make all of the meatballs a uniform size so they cook evenly.
- Get a good sear. Brown the meatballs to help seal in the moisture and keep them tender.
- Stir in spinach. Wait until just before serving so it does not get too wilted.
- Save some broth. You will need to add in extra broth to the leftovers since the pasta will absorb a lot when refrigerated.
Make it a Meal
Italian wedding soup goes well with a variety of side dishes and toppings:
Mixed greens salad with Italian Dressing.
A crusty baguette or homemade croutons.
Shaved Parmesan or Parmesan cheese crisps.
Italian Wedding Soup Recipe
Italian Wedding Soup is a marriage of flavors made in heaven! You can also easily make a few simple substitutions for a healthier version.
- ½ lb. ground beef or turkey
- ½ lb. ground sausage or turkey sausage
- ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs*
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 egg whisked
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- ¾ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. oil divided
- 1 Tbsp. oil olive or avocado
- ½ small onion finely diced
- 3 carrots medium-sized, diced
- 3 stalks celery diced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 8-10 cups chicken broth regular sodium
- 3 cups fresh baby spinach roughly chopped
- 1 cup orzo or acini de pepe pasta
- ½ tsp. salt to taste
- ¼ tsp. black pepper to taste
- ⅛ – ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes optional
Add all of the meatball ingredients, except for the oil, to a large bowl. Mix with a spatula or by hand until everything is well combined.
Scoop out 2 teaspoons worth of the mixture and shape into a meatball. If your hands get sticky simply spritz then with a bit of non-stick cooking spray and continue rolling. Repeat this with the remaining mixture. You should end up with roughly 48 meatballs.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat along with half of the meatballs. Sear for 4-5 minutes, rotating every 1-2 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on all sides. Remove the meatballs and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and meatballs.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot along with any remaining drippings from the meatballs. Stir in the diced carrots, onion, and celery. Saute for 3-4 minutes and then add in the garlic. Continue cooking for 1 minute.
Pour in broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to ensure no bits or pieces are stuck. Bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and meatballs. Give it a good stir, cover the pot with a lid, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 7-9 minutes, or according to the pasta package directions.
Once meatballs and pasta are cooked through, toss in spinach and stir until well mixed. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Can also use regular breadcrumbs with 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
- To Store: Seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-5 days.
- To Freeze: Place in a freezer-safe airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.