If you are craving a steaming bowl of nourishing comfort right now, then look no further than this Italian Wedding Soup made with extra veggies, chicken meatballs and greens. It will hit the spot!
I originally shared this recipe on January 7th 2014. I have updated the photos and text today.
What is Italian Wedding Soup
When I was researching the origins of Italian Wedding Soup, I was surprised to learn that the soup gets its name from the marriage of flavors of the meat and greens in the soup. Source. I had always thought it was a traditional dish served at Italian weddings. According to multiple sources, I was not alone in believing that was the case.
- Italian Wedding Soup is a traditional peasant soup made with a clear broth, meat and greens.
- In traditional Italian versions the broth is often enriched with pork or whatever meat you have leftover on hand.
- Here in the United States we expect that meat to be sausage or small meatballs made from a blend of beef and pork. (My version of this recipe has meatballs made with chicken. Read more about that below.)
- The soup itself is very simple and clear, with hearty greens added. Again the greens can be whatever you have on hand.
- Some versions of Italian Wedding Soup have egg stirred into the broth, sort of like egg drop soup.
Ingredients For Italian Wedding Soup
Although it’s not authentic to include celery and carrot necessarily for the base of Italian Wedding Soup, I decided to add make the base of the soup from sauteed mirepoix.
- Mirepoix is the French Culinary term for a mixture of onions, carrots and celery. It is a common base of many soups, sauces and more. Mirepoix is two parts onion, one part celery and one part carrot.
- I like the deeper flavor the blend of vegetables add. Plus I like to bulk up serving size with extra veggies for lower calories and added nutrition.
- Note that celery is one of the dirty dozen, so if you’re wondering if you should spring for organic celery, at nearly double the price, the answer, unfortunately, is yes if it’s in your budget.
I added a bit of white wine for acidity and because alcohol helps food taste better. [Seriously it does. That was another tip I learned from Sarah Moulton along with the magic of salting flank steak.]
Broth or Stock
If you happen to have homemade chicken stock on hand I would highly recommend it for this recipe, just be sure to taste the soup as it simmers and adjust the salt accordingly.
Now for the meatballs! I baked mine so that I could concentrate on building the flavors of the soup by sauteing the veggies, adding seasoning, deglazing etc. All the while the meatballs are setting up in the oven.
- I used ground chicken in them because it is leaner and has less saturated fat than beef. Look for organic ground chicken if possible. I like Smart Chicken brand.
- You can substitute organic ground turkey, which can be easier to find, just look for ground breast since it is leaner than the thigh meat.
- You can definitely use beef or a mixture of beef and pork, which is more traditional for Italian Wedding Soup.
- The fennel seeds and Parmesan add a really nice savory Italian flavor to the chicken meat.
- Breadcrumbs: When you’re shopping for breadcrumbs make sure to look at the ingredient list. Trans fats and additives are lurking in major brands, so I recommend looking for breadcrumbs at the health food store.
- If you are gluten free, GF breadcrumbs are pretty easy to find these days and would work well (and just sub in your favorite gf pasta.)
I used acini di pepe pasta in this soup today, which is traditional in Italian Wedding Soup, but I have also made this recipe with other small pasta, and even rotini. Some other options would be pastina or orzo.
The key to not overcooking the pasta is to add it to the wedding soup once it comes up to a simmer. Check your pasta package to make sure the recommended cooking time is 8 or 9 minutes. If that’s the case, pour in the pasta and simmer it in the soup for five minutes. Then add the greens in for the remaining time the pasta needs (three or four minutes.) If yours needs more or less time, just adjust the first cooking time up or down accordingly.
For the greens use what you have on hand. Here are some options:
- Escarole or Curly Endive
Top With Olive Oil and Parmesan
I have to say that really my absolute favorite part about this soup is that I drizzle on some olive oil and a bit more Parmesan on top. If you happen to have a bottle of special olive oil, it’s recipes like this soup (or for drizzling on zucchini ribbon salad) where you’d want to use it. That’s because you’ll really be able to taste it!
Steps To Make Italian Wedding Soup
Can you Freeze this Italian Wedding Soup
Yes you sure can.
- To do so, transfer the soup to 1 quart resealable containers, leaving about 1 -inch of headroom in the container for room for the soup to expand as it freezes.
- Make sure to chill it completely before sealing the lid shut and freezing it.
- Don’t forget to label it with the date. It will keep up to four months.
More Healthy Soup Recipes
- One of my latest soups, this Soupe Au Pistou is flexible depending on what you have on hand. Try it with winter or summer vegetables depending on the season.
- Probably my most popular soup, try this Minestrone Soup once and you’ll never use another Minestrone soup recipe again.
- If you love chicken soup,try this Paleo Chicken and Veggie soup (made without pasta- but still hearty thanks to loads of root veggies.)
- I make this Vegan Vegetable Soup every time I am craving a hearty veggie heavy soup. I love that you can use whatever veggies you have on hand.
- This Keto Chicken Soup has been ultra popular this winter.
- This meal prep slow cooker Chicken and Wild Rice Soup also freezes well if you have leftovers.
Here is a delicious homemade recipe for Italian Wedding Soup made with chicken (or turkey) meatballs, greens and acini di pepe pasta.
For the Meatballs
- ½ pound ground chicken
- 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs, preferably trans-fat free
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- pinch salt
For the Soup
- 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon dry Italian Seasonings
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3 cups finely shredded greens, such as kale, bok choy, spinach or escarole
- 1 cup acini di pepe pasta, pastina, orzo or other small pasta
- freshly chopped Italian Parsley
- grated Parmesan
- high quality fruity olive oil for drizzling
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a cooling rack over a foil-lined baking sheet and coat with cooking spray.
- Knead chicken, breadcrumbs, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, yolk, fennel seeds, pepper, garlic powder and pinch salt in a medium bowl with clean hands until all of the ingredients are mixed together. Form into small meatballs, about 1 tablespoon each (21 meatballs.) Set on the prepared rack. Bake until cooked through, 11 to 14 minutes.
Make Soup (While meatballs bake:)
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic, carrots, celery, onion, Italian seasoning and salt and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, slightly browned and the bottom of the pot is starting to brown slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine, and cook, scraping up any browned bits as the wine reduces to almost dry, 1 to 3 minutes. Add broth, cover and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 5 minutes. Add shredded greens and continue cooking until the pasta and greens are tender, 3 to 6 minutes longer.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the meatballs.
- Ladle into soup bowls and top with parsley, Parmesan and a drizzle of Parmesan if desired.
You can substitute ground turkey or beef for the chicken if you prefer.
Make sure to check the cooking time on the box or bag of pasta you’re using, and add or subtract cook time as necessary. This recipe is based on pasta that requires 8 to 9 minutes of cook time.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 141
- Fat: 4
- Saturated Fat: 1 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 10 grams