Learn to make this classic Italian-Inspired soup in under 1 hour! A restaurant-style Italian wedding soup is filled with juicy meatballs, orzo pasta, tender veggies, and spinach, cooked in a flavorful broth that is so easy to make from scratch!
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A Traditional One-Pot Soup!
This recipe for Italian wedding soup is a popular soup in Italian restaurants all across the states! It’s made with tender veggies, leafy spinach, teeny tiny pasta, and those unmistakable meatballs, in a delicious broth!
It’s more soupier than meatball soup but still nice and hearty and so easy to make! Make it for a quick and easy meal idea for dinner during the week, a starter to a larger weekend meal, or reheat leftovers for an easy lunch.
My kids love meatballs in their soup and the only thing they love better is when I make a loaf of dutch oven bread or my copycat Olive Garden breadsticks to go with it. A true comfort meal any night of the week!
What is Italian Wedding Soup?
The name comes from minestra maritata, which in Italy is a phrase meaning “married soup.” This Italian wedding soup recipe is a combination of flavors coming together in one bowl, just like a marriage!
As you can imagine, many people believe it’s become a popular wedding appetizer. Despite the name, it’s not typically served at Italian weddings, however, it is enjoyed on special occasions of all kinds.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Meatballs: I use 80% lean ground beef in this recipe. More often than not, I have a batch of my homemade meatball recipe saved in the freezer, so I’ll toss those in and save time.
- Grated parmesan cheese: I highly recommend freshly grated from a block rather than pre-shredded. It just tastes better!
- Breadcrumbs: Italian-style breadcrumbs are great in this recipe. They absorb moisture and hold the meat together nicely. You can also make your own homemade breadcrumbs and or use Panko breadcrumbs.
- Italian seasoning: This will be used in the meatballs but can also be used in the soup if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand. This is the recipe for homemade Italian seasoning I keep on hand using just a few simple dried herbs.
- Chicken broth: You can be flexible here and use either homemade chicken stock, low-sodium chicken broth, or whatever you have on hand. You’ll be adding salt to taste later on, so if your broth is already salted, you’ll just add less (or none) later.
- Pasta: Any teeny pasta will do! I use orzo but you can use acini de Pepe pasta or ditalini if preferred.
- Spinach: Handfuls of fresh baby spinach are added and wilted down. It’s a signature part of this soup adding loads of nutrients and color!
Use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and onion powder if you do not have fresh garlic cloves and onions.
You can substitute the beef meatballs for turkey meatballs, chicken meatballs, or all pork. My favorite is to combine 1/2 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound of ground pork. It creates juicier meatballs. You can also do 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground turkey to cut back on fat.
If you don’t have any spinach on hand, you can also use kale or escarole. Even swiss chard or collard greens would be appropriate substitutes. For the orzo pasta, you can try cooking couscous.
How to Make Easy Italian Wedding Soup
- Make the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the meat, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, chopped yellow onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs. Use a small cookie scoop or spoon to scoop out enough to make 1″ balls.
- Brown the meat. Sauté the meatballs in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned. Turn halfway through and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Start with the mirepoix. In a large pot sauté the celery onions and carrots over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic in to cook for 1 minute until nice and fragrant. Continue stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the broth. Pour in the broth and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the temperature to medium-low.
- Toss in the pasta, meatballs, and spinach. The meatballs will have been mostly (if not all the way) cooked when browned at the beginning, so throwing them for a few minutes at the end while the pasta cooks and spinach wilts are all it needs.
- Simmer, season, and serve. Cook on low for 2-3 minutes until everything has cooked through. Taste a bit and season with salt and pepper if needed. Top with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs and serve while it’s hot!
- I highly recommend reading up on how to properly cut an onion or learning how to mince garlic. It helps to avoid big chunks of either one in one little meatball!
- If you like more broth in the soup, reduce pasta to 3/4 cup or add an extra cup of broth or water.
- Have everything diced and ready to go. Preparing chopped celery, onions, and carrots ahead of time helps keep everything timed right.
- Use fresh herbs wherever possible. Parsley, thyme, or basil are all great.
- Finish off the soup with a squirt of lemon juice to brighten up the flavors!
Technically yes, but I always recommend using fresh spinach. If you do use frozen spinach make sure to thaw it and squeeze as much excess liquid out as you can.
I loved this with orzo as it is commonly found at any grocery store. Other small pasta such as acini de pepe, ditalini, or even pearl couscous are also great options. Cooking time may need to be adjusted dependent on pasta type.
Absolutely! If you’re adding frozen meatballs to the pot, they’ll need a few extra minutes of cooking time to heat through.
Keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Pop it in the microwave to heat up or use the stove. You might find you need to add a bit more water or broth to it as the pasta will have absorbed some of the liquid.
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Italian Wedding Soup
- ¾ pound 80% lean ground beef , could sub with ground pork
- 1 large egg , beaten
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley , or 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup diced carrots
- ½ cup diced celery
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- Salt , to taste
- Ground black pepper , to taste
- 32 ounces chicken broth
- 1-2 cups water , see note
- 1 cup dry orzo pasta , or acini di pepe
- 2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or herbs , can sub for 1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 4-6 ounces baby spinach
- Grated parmesan cheese
- In a large bowl, combine the meat, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley or Italian seasoning.
- Use a small cookie scoop or spoon to scoop the meat mixture. Form into 1-inch balls.
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook until browned, turning halfway through. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté until they have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour in the broth and water. Bring to a boil and educe heat to medium low. Stir in orzo and parsley. Simmer 5 minutes. Add in the meatballs and spinach and simmer 2 to 3 more minutes, or until the pasta and meatballs are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.
- Top with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, if desired.
- You can use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and onion powder if you do not have fresh garlic cloves and onions.
- If I have pork on hand, I like to use 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork. It creates juicier meatballs. You can also do 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground turkey to cut back on fat.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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