Made with tender, juicy meatballs, ditalini pasta, veggies, and a pesto-infused chicken broth, this Italian wedding soup recipe is easy to make, comforting, and so full of great flavors.
I recently realized I have so many other Italian-style soup recipes on my blog, like my lasagna soup, my grandma’s BEST minestrone soup, and my sausage and gnocchi soup. But I was missing a favorite—Italian wedding soup. Italian wedding soup originated in Southern Italy, and while the ingredients differ by region, it typically consists of chicken broth, a bitter green, and meat (usually pork sausage or meatballs). I make mine with ditalini pasta and tender pork and beef meatballs baked in the oven so you don’t have to babysit frying them on the stove. I prefer the milder flavor of spinach to traditional escarole, but you could try kale, too. Finally, authentic Italian wedding soup doesn’t call for pesto in the broth, but I once had a version with it and loved how much flavor just a spoonful or two added. This soup is hearty and filling with an Italian zing. Let’s get into it, shall we?
What’s in Italian Wedding Soup
Italian wedding soup is comprised of meatballs and a flavorful, veggie-filled broth
Here’s what you’ll need to make the meatballs:
- Egg (this works as a binder but also helps the meatballs brown)
- Ground beef (I like using 80/20)
- Ground pork
- Breadcrumbs (Panko also works)
- Grated Parmesan
- Fresh basil (or you could use parsley)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Note: If you don’t do red meat (or want something a bit healthier), you can easily use ground turkey instead.
Here’s what you’ll need for the soup:
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Chicken stock
- Ditalini pasta (or any other small pasta, such as farfalline, stelline, acini de pepe, or orzo)
- Fresh pesto (homemade or store-bought)
- Spinach (you could also use escarole or kale)
- Lemon juice
How to Make Italian Wedding Soup
This Italian wedding soup recipe is easy to make, especially since the meatballs are baked in the oven.
- Make the meatballs. Mix the meatball ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands—they’re your best tool. Use a tablespoon to scoop out the mixture and form into balls.
- Bake the meatballs. Arrange the meatballs in an even layer on a sheet pan and bake until cooked through and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
Make the Flavorful Italian Wedding Soup Broth
I love the simple, pesto-infused broth of this Italian wedding soup—it’s so flavorful, and it’s also full of good-for-you veggies.
Here’s how to make the soup:
- Give your onion a headstart. I almost always cook my onion for a few minutes before adding other veggies, because I like to get it a little golden brown first and mellow its flavor. Sauté for 5 minutes in a little olive oil.
- Cook the other veggies and garlic. Sauté the celery, carrots, and salt for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Add Bite and Bulk to the Soup
- Cook the pasta in the soup. I cook my pasta directly in the soup to make it easy. Take note though, by the next day the noodles will have absorbed a good amount of the broth and you may need to add more liquid. Of course, you can always cook and store your pasta separately, if you prefer.
- Add the flavor hitters and finish the soup. Reduce the heat to low, add the pesto, Parmesan, spinach, and meatballs. Finish cooking just until the spinach has wilted and add a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the savory broth. Taste and add more salt if desired. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
Why Add Pesto to Wedding Soup?
Pesto isn’t an authentic addition to Italian Wedding Soup but oh my yes, it is a delicious one. Pesto intrinsically delivers the classic Italian flavors of garlic, basil, olive oil, pinenuts, and Parmesan cheese, but is conveniently added by the spoonful. It’s kind of the perfect flavor builder and melts into the broth seamlessly. Add more or less to suit your taste.
What is Italian Wedding Soup Called in Italy
In Italy, Italian wedding soup is called “minestra maritata,” which translates to “married soup.” It refers to the “marriage” of meat and vegetables. Sadly, there isn’t a romantic story at its root.
Italian Wedding Soup Variations
This is a versatile soup, so you can easily make some ingredient swaps or additions if you like. Here are some ideas:
- Swap the spinach for chopped escarole or kale
- Use ground turkey or chicken for the meatballs
- Add red pepper flakes if you want a bit of heat
- Try a different (small) pasta like shells, elbows, or small penne, or skip the noodles if you prefer
- If you don’t care for pesto, leave it out
- Fennel would be a delicious addition to the celery, carrot, and onion
- Top with freshly chopped basil and/or dill
What to Serve with Italian Wedding Soup
- Killer Garlic Knots
- The BEST Garlic Bread
- Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons
- Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan
- Kale Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Italian Wedding Soup
For the meatballs
- 1 large egg
- ½ pound ground beef (80/20)
- ½ pound ground pork
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs or Panko
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For the soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion , (from 1 small onion)
- 3 celery stalks , diced
- 2 large carrots , diced
- 2 large garlic cloves , minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
- ¼ cup fresh pesto (homemade or store-bought)
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 3 cups packed fresh spinach leaves
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the Meatballs
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Add the meatball ingredients to a large bowl and mix well with wet hands (they’re your best tool!).
- Use a tablespoon to portion out the meatball mixture, wet your hands again, and form into balls, arranging them in an even layer on the sheet pan. You should have 20-25 balls. Bake the meatballs until cooked through and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the oven and set aside while you make the soup.
Make the Soup
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, celery, carrots, and salt, and sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
- Stir in the chicken stock and increase the heat to medium-high, bringing to a rolling simmer. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or so. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the pesto, Parmesan cheese, meatballs, and spinach. Cook just until the spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice then taste and add more salt if desired. To serve, top with freshly grated Parmesan.
- Over time the pasta will absorb a good deal of the broth, so if you have leftovers, you’ll likely want to add some more chicken stock and/or water. Alternatively, you can always cook your pasta separately and just scoop some out to add to your soup whenever you’re serving.
- If you’d like more greens, feel free to add another cup or two of spinach.
More Italian Soups You’ll Love
- Cioppino Seafood Stew
- Sausage and Gnocchi Soup
- Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup
- Vegetarian Crockpot Lasagna Soup
- My Grandma’s BEST Minestrone Soup
- Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup with Sausage and Kale
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