This Authentic Italian wedding soup is like a bowl of pure comfort and a hug from an Italian Nonna! Mini meatballs, escarole, carrots, and acini di pepe pasta make this the best anytime soup!
I’m not Italian by heritage but I married into an Italian family. There were things I had to know how to make that were “Nonna approved”. Sauce, meatballs, homemade pasta, and wedding soup.
I grew up on soup that was a meal, not just a precursor or a side dish to the main meal. Soups were hearty, stick to the ribs and comforting to the soul. Or, as I coined the phrase years ago – “Soup is like a hug from your grandma; warm, comforting and good for the soul!”
What is Italian Wedding Soup?
Traditionally it’s chicken stock that has mini beef and pork meatballs, green veggies (like escarole), Acini de Pepe pasta, parmesan, and egg.
Does it have chicken in it? If you ask me and the Italians in Mr. Fantabulous’ family. No. In my opinion, adding chicken to it is like “Hey, here’s chicken noodle soup with mini meatballs.” But can you add it? Sure, just don’t serve it to me, k? You could poach some chicken breasts in your Instant Pot, shred it and add it after you add in the egg and parmesan.
Wedding soup comes from the Italian phrase “minestera maritata” or “married soup”. It’s the marriage of greens and meat.
What do you need to make Italian Wedding Soup?
- A KILLER recipe! *See below!
- Mini pork and beef meatballs *again, see recipe below)
- Escarole – I’ve seen folks use spinach and kale but I’m sorry, it just doesn’t have the same flavor as what escarole has.
- Carrots, celery, onions
- Acini de Pepe
- Parmesan Egg Drizzle
What is Acini de Pepe and what other pasta could you use?
In Italian, it means “seeds of pepper” or peppercorns. It’s a tiny round-shaped pasta that you tend to boil right in the soup.
If you can’t find it you could use orzo, stellini, ditalini or tubetti pasta. Couscous doesn’t quite work and tends to turn gummy.
I know someone will ask so I might as well put it out there. Yes, you can use cooked rice (I would say wild rice blend would be awesome) but make sure you cook it in stock!.
Let’s talk Meatballs
Meatballs to me are rarely all beef. I find the mixture of beef and pork lends to the most tender meatballs as well as the most flavorful. You will also find that almost all of my meatballs use a panade.
A panade is where you put bread in a bowl and add milk to the bowl. The bread soaks up the milk after about 5-10 minutes and creates a panade. You may have heard it called “milk bread”. To me, it’s critical to help the meatballs retain their tenderness.
In most meatball applications I bake mine (either par-bake and then finish in a sauce or bake fully as I do in my Gobbler Thanksgiving Meatballs).
HOWEVER, in Italian Wedding soup, they are neither. They are cooked directly in the pot. Since they are so tiny they cook in the boiling stock with the escarole and Acini de Pepe.
Could you fry or roast them first? You *could* but honestly, I tried both and didn’t like the flavor they imparted to the soup. These meatballs should be soft and tender not only on the inside but also on the outside.
While we’re talking meatballs, let’s talking shaping. These are TINY. I use my Jenluca Mini Cookie Scoop. It’s only 2 teaspoons full and makes it so much easier to make. Just mix the ingredients, scoop and put on the baking sheet. If need be, plop the scoop into damp hands to make them round.
Nonna approved tips for The Best Italian Wedding Soup
There are a few things that are crucial to making truly amazing soup. From my decades of making this, this is what I consider tried and true Nonna approved tips!
- Use a panade when making your meatballs. This is crucial to keep them moist!
- Use both pork and beef in your meatball mixture. Could you use ground chicken? You could but you may need to add a tad more panade and maybe a little fat to keep them from getting tough.
- MINI meatballs – you do not make big honkin’ sized meatballs as you would for meatballs and spaghetti
- No shredded chicken. This isn’t Italian Chicken Noodle soup. Okay fine add it if you want
- Escarole – no kale, no spinach but escarole. Spinach doesn’t give it the right flavor and kale is just funky
- Yes, you need to add the egg and parmesan (well okay you can skip if you’re allergic) but it helps give it that unctuous flavor and mouth-feel
- Use tiny pasta. It doesn’t take over the dish but does give some body to the stock.
- Cook the pasta in the pot with the rest of the stuff. If you need more stock, add it. The pasta will plump even more after it’s fully cooked so you may need to add a tad more stock upon reheating. That’s completely fine and normal.
I don’t list it here BUT if you have leftover parmesan cheese rinds, SAVE THEM! I keep a baggie of them in my freezer. When I make my soups I’ll toss one of the rinds in for about 15 minutes to help flavor the soup.
In this recipe, I toss the rind in when I put the meatballs in to boil. I remove the rind and discard it when it’s all done and the egg mixture has been stirred in.
How to make Italian Wedding Soup
To make the actual soup is easy. Where I’d say you’ll spend the majority of your time is making the mini meatballs and chopping the vegetables. This is something that would be great to get the kids involved! Have one mix the meatballs and the other scoop/roll them out.
- Mix the meatball mixture, shape into mini meatballs and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
- In a dutch oven or stockpot, sauté up your carrots, onions, and celery. Once they are translucent, add in the stock and bring to a boil.
- When the veggies are sauteing, chop up the escarole. When the stock is boiling, add in the escarole, mini meatballs, and the Acini de Pepe. Stir to combine.
- While the meatballs, pasta, and escarole are cooking, whisk together the eggs and parmesan cheese.
- When the meatballs are cooked through, slowly stir in the egg parmesan mixture to form thin strands of egg. Cook for about a minute and season to taste.
What pairs well with Italian Wedding Soup?
If it’s just me, this is a meal. Just give me some crusty bread and I’m in heaven! Since this is deemed Italian, I tend to serve this with:
- stuffed shells
- homemade spaghetti
- chicken parmesan
- Panzanella Salad
- Pork Ragout
- Crusty Bread and Tuscan Dipping Oil
There’s not much that I don’t pair with this. This is just such a great recipe to have in your wheelhouse. It freezes beautifully and is one that I honestly have on hand all year long!
Speaking of freezing…
Can you freeze Italian Wedding Soup?
Absolutely! I make a huge pot of this monthly and freeze it in smaller containers. Just ladle into your freezer-safe containers leaving a 1″ gap at the top. Once cooled completely, place the lid and put it in the freezer.
This makes great dishes to drop off with your family and friends! Just drop off a container of soup (fresh or frozen), a loaf of crusty bread and reheating instructions. This would put a smile on anyone’s face!
What I often do is make up extra and give it some of my elderly senior friends that I know don’t often get homecooked meals. I’ll stock up their freezers with this for them.
To reheat it’s best to thaw in the fridge overnight. When to heat it up, just place the soup back into a pot on the stove or in the microwave and heat until heated through.
A Great Time Saver for Italian Wedding Soup
When I know I’m going to make a big pot of this soup I’ll make up a huge batch of meatballs. Yes, this means sitting at the kitchen island and rolling meatballs for an hour or so.
Essentially I’ll double the meatball recipe and save one tray for the pot and one tray I’ll put in the freezer. This is known as flash freezing. Once the meatballs are frozen, I’ll transfer them to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
This is a great way to get the kids all involved on a snowy afternoon…or when you need help. I tend to just put on a movie, sit at my island and scoop and roll until they are all done.
The next time I’m making this soup, all I have to do is grab my bag of frozen meatballs and toss them into the boiling stock. You may need to add another minute or two of boiling but that’s it! Trust me, it’s a HUGE time saver as those little mini meatballs are a labor of love!
More Soup Recipes that I know you’ll love!
- 4–8 cups chopped escarole (1 head)
- 3/4 cup finely chopped white onion
- 1 cup finely chopped carrots (about 3)
- 1 cup finely chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
- 2 Tbl oil
- 12 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 2 Tbl grated parmesan plus more for garnish
- 1 cup dry acini de pepe
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 2 slices of torn bread soaked in 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- In a large bowl add all of the meatball mixture and mix to just combine. Do not overwork the meat as it will get tough. Using a small cookie scoop or a Tablespoon, scoop the meatballs into 1/2” round balls. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet or plate. Repeat to make all of the meatballs. Set aside.
- In a large stock pot over medium heat add the oil. When the oil starts to shimmer add the onion, carrots and celery, stirring. Sautee for 6-8 minutes or until the onions turn translucent. Add the stock and bring to a boil scraping the bottom. Once it starts to boil, add the meatballs, pasta and escarole. Continue to cook for 8-10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through stirring often.
- In a bowl whisk together the egg and 2 Tbl of parmesan cheese. Turn heat down on the soup to medium. Start stirring the soup around in a circle. Continue stirring and gradually drizzle in the egg mixture to form thin strands of egg; ~ 1 minute. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.