Super simple soul-satisfying Italian Wedding soup with tiny meatballs and pasta balls cooked in chicken broth.
This isn’t a soup served at weddings.
It’s the perfect marriage of meat and vegetables in a chicken broth.
It’s another one of those foods that has a bad translation just like refried beans aren’t fried once, let alone twice.
Married soup would be the proper translation for minestra maritata, but it’s delicious no matter what you want to call it.
My guests love chicken broth-based dinner and loaded with meatballs, pasta, and spinach or escarole.
How to Make
First, decide if you want your meatballs baked or cooked in the soup, spinach or escarole, and which pasta you want to use.
Mini meatballs can be made with your favorite meatball recipe.
We like the meatballs in our recipe for this soup though. Our other meatball recipes seem to overpower the other flavors in our soup.
They can be baked or can be cooked in the chicken broth. The difference is the amount of fat the soup will have and how clear the finished soup is.
Baking the meatballs first will bake off a good portion of the fat. For a less greasy soup, this is the method I suggest.
I like the color baked meatballs have, they don’t look as lifeless as meatballs cooked in the broth.
When cooking the meatballs in the broth, choose super lean meat like ground sirloin for your meatballs. There will be some proteins that turn into “scum” in the soup.
For a clear soup broth, skim as much of this off the top of the soup. It won’t hurt anything if you leave it in the soup, it just isn’t very pretty.
Italian Wedding Soup Pasta
Just about any small pasta will work, but for the traditional round or rice-shaped pasta you will want to use orzo, acini de pepe, or pearl couscous.
I prefer acini de pepe but it has become difficult to find in the store.
Pearl couscous makes beautiful round balls that seem to hold up better in leftovers, so that is what I mostly use now.
Orzo should have a nice rice size and shape when it has cooked.
Be careful though when you buy orzo, some of the brands selling orzo these days are packaging something that looks more like broken spaghetti. That isn’t what you want in this soup.
Spinach or Escarole
Spinach and escarole both work in wedding soup. I have eaten with both. Escarole is just more bitter than spinach.
I prefer baby spinach because it’s really ready to add right to the soup. Escarole and regular spinach have some thicker stems that may need to be removed before adding to the soup.
Larger pieces of spinach and escarole should be torn into smaller pieces before cooking because really big pieces tend to get wrapped around the spoon when eating.
Parmesan can be added to the soup after it has been placed into serving bowls. You can use the grated stuff from the can, shredded, or shaved. The only thing I wouldn’t do is put it into the soup as it is cooking.
The cheese will clump together and stick to the pan, like everywhere in the pan. The melted cheese will require some elbow grease to get off of the pan and sticks to your sponge or dishcloth. Heads up, it will stick to the bowls too, but those seem easier to get clean.
Don’t let this prevent you from using a lot of cheese! I think cheese is the best part!
Wedding soup can be frozen. When freezing it will do better if it is frozen without spinach. If possible, remove the portion you want to freeze and place it into a freezer container before adding spinach or escarole.
Like most other soups, wedding soup can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop. Allow frozen soup to come to room temperature before reheating because you don’t want to break pieces of meatball and pasta off a soup iceberg.
This is perfect as a first course just like restaurants. Serve it in small cup-sized bowls with fresh baguette slices on the side and parmesan cheese.
It can also be served as the main dish, just serve it in larger bowls with extra bread. You could even add some olive oil dipping sauce for the bread.
Pair this soup with a sandwich for the perfect lunch or light dinner.
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Italian Wedding Soup
- 10 cups chicken broth
- 2 cans condensed chicken broth undiluted
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs plain or Italian
- 1/2 cup finely diced carrot
- 1 bag baby spinach leaves 10 to 12 ounces
- 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta or pearl couscous
- Shredded Parmesan cheese for topping finished soup
- Put all broth ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmering and continue to simmer until vegetables are tender.
- While broth is simmering, preheat oven to 375 Degrees F.
- Prepare a baking sheet, with sides, by spraying with a non-stick spray.
- In a large bowl, add ground beef and eggs. Mix well.
- Sprinkle garlic salt and basil over meat mixture. Mix well.
- Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the meat mixture, followed by the bread crumbs. Mix just until incorporated.
- Form into small balls using about 1 teaspoon for meat. Baking is optional. Meatballs can be cooked directly in the broth.
- Place balls onto baking sheet
- Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until meatballs have browned.
- Add cooked meatballs to the broth.
- Bring soup to a boil.
- Add the pasta to the broth and continue boiling until pasta is tender.
- Turn off the heat and add the spinach and stir until spinach has wilted.
- Ladle into bowls and top with shredded Parmesan cheese.