Italian Wedding Soup is a warm and comforting classic Italian soup made with leafy green vegetables, mini homemade meatballs, and acini de pepe pasta in a light and flavorful chicken broth. Super easy to make, it’s guaranteed to be an instant family favorite!
Proof that meatballs aren’t just for spaghetti is this Italian wedding soup. Filled with fun little meatballs, teeny-tiny little pasta balls, and a nourishing broth, this Italian wedding soup is a frequent request and an all-around family favorite. Perfect for cold winter nights, this simple feel-good soup has your name written all over it.
What is Italian Wedding Soup?
A popular Italian-American comfort food, Italian Wedding Soup, or just Wedding Soup, is made with meat (usually meatballs) and leafy greens (endive and escarole being the most “traditional”).
These days you’ll often find some kind of small pasta like acini di pepe in Italian Wedding Soup, but earlier versions were usually served with extra meat instead of pasta.
The term “wedding soup” is derived from the Italian phrase “minestra maritata” or “married soup.” Somewhat confusing, this soup is not a popular wedding menu choice but instead refers to the combination or “marriage” between the greens and the meat and the flavor it produces.
Italian Wedding Soup Ingredients & Modifications
For a full list of ingredients, please scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this page.
Meat: I used a combination of ground beef and ground turkey for the meatballs. Feel free to use your favorite type of ground meat, including ground pork or lamb.
Pasta: I used acini di pepe, but any other small pasta (orzo, ditalini, or even macaroni) will work.
Greens: I used a mixture of three types of leafy greens – curly endive, escarole, and fresh spinach. Feel free to use all three, or pick just one.
Should I cook the pasta in the soup or separately?
Small pasta like acini di pepe, orzo, and ditalini has such a small surface area that it isn’t typically necessary to cook the pasta separately. Pasta noodles or those with a larger surface area (penne, bowtie, etc.) are best cooked separately as this prevents the pasta from turning soggy. That said, it’s entirely up to you. I like to cook mine separately so that I can add as much or as little pasta as I feel like having.
How to Make Italian Wedding Soup
1. Unlike many meatball recipes, the meatballs in Italian wedding soup are pretty small, around 2-3 teaspoons of meat mixture per meatball. Can they be larger? of course. However, traditional Wedding Soup recipes will come with small meatballs.
2. Once you’ve mixed together all the ingredients for the meatballs, you have three cooking methods – bake, pan-fry or boil directly in the soup.
For this recipe, I chose to bake the meatballs before adding them to the soup. It’s a little extra work, but I like that some of the extra fat has a chance to drip off. Besides, the golden outside with the soft, juicy inside is always amazing.
3. As the meatballs are baking, start that soup by cooking the onions, carrots, and celery in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until they are soft and the onions are translucent. Mix in the garlic, chicken broth, and white wine (if using).
Dry white wine, you guys, not a sweet wine. Look for a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio.
4. Once your soup comes to a boil, add the pasta (unless you decide to cook that separately) and cook for approximately 5-6 minutes. By this point, your meatballs should be cooked (yayy!), so drop those into your pot of simmering soup and return to a boil.
5. Approximately 5 minutes before serving, stir in your fresh greens (whatever tickles your fancy) and serve with fresh shaved Parmesan cheese.
Can I make Italian wedding soup with frozen meatballs?
Yes. If you don’t have any homemade frozen meatballs on hand, store-bought meatballs will work just as great! Just be sure to pick up mini meatballs if you can find them.
Storage and Leftovers
Storage: Keep leftovers stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, thoroughly reheating each time.
Freezing: Allow the soup to cool in the refrigerator completely before transferring it to freezer-friendly containers or double-bag in freezer-friendly zip-lock bags. Remove most of the air, leaving just a small amount of space to allow the liquid to expand as it freezes. I highly recommend freezing without the pasta and (if possible) the greens. This will ensure that the reheated soup tastes just as fresh the second time around.
Reheating: To reheat from frozen, allow the soup to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then transfer to a pot and cook over medium-high heat until warmed through.
How to Serve
I like to serve this soup with fresh bread and a light green salad.
More Cozy Soup Recipes
- Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
- Ham and Bean Soup Recipe (Crock Pot)
- Homemade Tomato Basil Soup Recipe
- Ginger Garlic Noodle Soup with Bok Choy (Bok Choy Soup)
- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe
- Easy Minestrone Soup Recipe (Stovetop + Slow Cooker)
- Pho Recipe – How to Make Vietnamese Noodle Soup
If you try making this Italian Wedding Soup Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
Italian Wedding Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large yellow onion - minced
- 4 large carrots - peeled and chopped
- 5 stalks celery - chopped
- 5 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 cups low-sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
- ½ cup dry white wine - (optional)
- 8 ounces acini di pepe pasta
- 1.5 pounds curly endive or escarole or fresh baby spinach (or a mix) - see notes
- Parmesan cheese - for serving
For the Meatballs
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Transfer all ingredients for the meatballs to a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly combine all ingredients for the meatballs together. Using approximately 1 tablespoon of the mixture for each meatball, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until tops are golden and meatballs are just cooked through. Set aside.
For the Soup
- As the meatballs are cooking, begin preparing the soup. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Mix in the carrots and celery and continue to cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and salt and sauté for an additional 1 minute, stirring continuously to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Add the chicken stock and the wine to the vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the acini di pepe pasta to the soup. Stir well to combine. Allow the pasta to cook for approximately 5-6 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the cooked meatballs to the pot and return to a simmer. Stir in the fresh greens (curly endive, escarole or spinach) and allow the soup to cook until the greens are wilted.
- Serve soup garnished with Parmesan cheese if desired.
- I used two thick slices of fresh sourdough bread for the meatballs, but any white bread will work. You want approximately 2 cups of torn-up bits and pieces of bread.
- If you don’t think you’ll be eating all the soup in one sitting, I recommend cooking the pasta separately and adding it to individual serving bowls rather than cooking the pasta in the soup pot.
- I used a mixture of all three leafy greens- curly endive, escarole, and spinach (see images above).
- This recipe makes a lot of mini meatballs! Feel free to cut the meatball recipe in half or save half of the meatballs for later 🙂
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)