Italian Wedding Soup is easy to make, and is good as soon as it’s made (no need to sit overnight to intensify the flavors). Not being Italian, I can’t claim this is just like my Nonna made. Nor can I claim to know the origin of the name, “Italian Wedding Soup”, but I did do a bit of Internet research. Contrary to what some think, this soup is NOT served at Italian Weddings (although, because of it’s name, it is served at some Italian-American weddings in…Pennsylvania!). Another theory is that the soup is a good “marriage” of ingredients, possibly green vegetables and meat. The most common story is the soup is easy enough for a new bride (or new groom) to make as one of their first home-cooked meals. My non-Italian, non-traditional thought it that it’s great for a couple to make together. One person could make the meatballs while the other makes the vegetable broth base. Throw the vegetable broth and the meatballs together, simmer for a few minutes, and then sit down to enjoy a bowl or two of heart-warming Italian Wedding Soup.
This recipe is based upon one by Ina Garten, but I have changed Ina’s recipe somewhat. The major change is I cook the meatballs in the broth, rather than bake them in the oven as Ina directs. I also make my meatballs out of ground beef instead of Ina’s ground chicken/ground chicken sausage combo. I like a tastier meatball, and I think beef goes better with the Parmesan in the meatball than chicken does. I also added basil to the meatball. I don’t know why Ina forgot that!
I love soup. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One tip, every time I make a pot of soup, I freeze one or two individual servings. It’s wonderful to have a ready-made, wholesome bowl of soup in the freezer for those days when you are rushing from points A to Z with no time to spare. A bowl of soup in the freezer can keep you away from those fast food places. Honest.
Now go on, try it…Italian Wedding Soup!
Italian Wedding Soup
For the soup base
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
- 2 teaspoons dill
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (use more of the parsley in the meatballs)
- 10-12 cups chicken broth (homemade is the best, of course)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup small pasta (orzo, tubetini, small stars, mini shells..)
- 1 batch of meatballs (recipe below)
- 12 oz. baby spinach, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- additional grated Parmesan, optional (for serving)
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pan. Add the onion and saute until slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Stir in chopped celery and saute for another 3 minutes. Stir in carrots, dill, parsley, chicken broth, and wine and bring to a boil. While soup is boiling, stir in pasta and meatballs. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in chopped spinach and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. Turn heat off. Taste broth. Add salt and pepper as needed. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.
For the Meatballs
- 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken, but the meatballs won’t taste as good!)
- 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices of bread, crusts removed, whirled in food processor OR, in a pinch, stir in bought bread crumbs or Panko)
- 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
- minced garlic, to taste (1 or 2 cloves, minced OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic OR onion powder)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper, to taste
Place ground beef, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, parsley, cheese, and desired amount of salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix lightly with a fork (don’t use hands because the resulting meatballs will be too dense). In another bowl, combine the milk with the egg and beat lightly. Stir the egg/milk mixture into the meat mixture, again, using your fork. When all ingredients are evenly distributed, use a small scoop or a tablespoon to portion meat and form into about 40 meatballs. Roll the scooped meat gently in palm of your hand to form into a ball. Use meatballs as directed above.