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Full of miniature meatballs, tender pasta, and fresh veggies, this easy Italian Wedding Soup is healthy, hearty, and satisfying comfort food. It’s a simple dinner that the whole family will love — especially when you serve it with freshly-grated Parmesan and a loaf of crusty baguette to soak up that rich, flavorful broth!

Close overhead image of the best Italian Wedding Soup in two white bowls

Easy Italian Wedding Soup Recipe

You just can’t beat a big pot of homemade Italian Wedding Soup on a chilly day, and this version is the absolute best! Kids love the little pasta shapes and the mini meatballs, which you can prepare with ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, ground pork, ground sausage, or a combination of these meats. You’ll even sneak some nourishing veggies and greens into this pot, which your kids will gobble up in their enthusiasm for the tender, flavorful meatballs! It’s a win all around, and an easy homemade soup that you’ll turn to again and again.

Is Italian Wedding Soup Really Italian?

Italian Wedding Soup is an Italian soup that originated in Naples. The name comes from the translation of ‘Minestra Maritata’ which means married soup — referring to the marriage of flavors from the vegetables and meat, rather than something that would be served at weddings. It’s not actually a dish that’s typically served at Italian weddings.

Close up front shot of easy Italian Wedding Soup in a white bowl with handle

The Meatballs in Italian Wedding Soup

The miniature meatballs are a hallmark of an authentic Italian Wedding Soup recipe. You’ll often find chicken meatballs or turkey meatballs in this dish, but anything goes! Some folks prefer ground beef meatballs, while others like to add pork or sausage to the mixture. I’ve included a combination of ground chicken and ground pork here, but again — swap those out for your favorite ground meat.

Raw chicken meatballs on a tray

The tender meatballs include grated Parmesan cheese, herbs, seasoning and breadcrumbs for an incredibly flavorful addition to the soup. You’ll brown them in a skillet first for added flavor and color, cook the veggies in the drippings, and then add the meatballs back to the pot to finish cooking in the broth. The only tedious part of this easy recipe is shaping all of those little meatballs — you’ll get about 40 in total!

Frying chicken meatballs in a Dutch oven

The Pasta

Another classic ingredient in homemade Italian Wedding Soup is the little pasta shapes. I’ve shown acini di pepe here (which means “seeds of pepper” in Italian and refers to their little round peppercorn shape), but any similar small pasta will work. Other good options include orzo, ditalini, or stelline (little stars). The pasta goes into the pot at the very end so that it’s cooked perfectly — not overdone and mushy!

Acini de pepe pasta in a measuring cup

Ingredients

  • Ground chicken and ground pork
  • Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • Egg
  • Milk
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder
  • Olive oil
  • Carrots, celery and onion
  • Garlic
  • Chicken broth
  • Bay leaf
  • Small pasta (such as acini di pepe)
  • Fresh baby spinach
Process shot showing how to make Italian Wedding Soup

How to Make Italian Wedding Soup from Scratch

I find that the soup is best when prepared in a big pot on the stovetop. That said, in a pinch, you can also make it in the slow cooker and let it simmer for a few hours while you go about your busy day. The Crock Pot instructions are included separately below.

  1. Combine meatball ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Shape the meat mixture into about 40 miniature meatballs using a small scoop (about the size of a melon baller) or a teaspoon.
  3. Fry the meatballs in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. It’s best to do this in two separate batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan. The meatballs should get nicely browned on the outside, but you don’t need to cook them all of the way through at this point. The browning only takes about 1-2 minutes per side.
  4. Remove the meatballs from the pot and set aside.
  5. Sauté carrots, celery, onion and garlic in the drippings in the pot.
  6. Add broth and bay leaf to the pot; bring to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer.
  7. Stir in pasta and meatballs. Cook until the pasta is tender — about 10 minutes for acini di pepe.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach. The leaves will wilt almost instantly in the hot broth.
  9. Ladle into bowls and serve!
Ladle serving homemade Italian Wedding Soup from a Dutch Oven

Easy Italian Wedding Soup in the Crockpot

I prefer the stovetop method, because it’s much easier to control the quality of the finished soup (the pasta doesn’t get overdone or mushy, the drippings add flavor to the pot, and the vegetables are perfectly tender). That said, it can be really convenient to place everything in the Crock Pot and go about your busy day. Here’s how you can make Italian Wedding Soup in a slow cooker:

  1. Prepare the meatballs as instructed and pan-fry in a skillet.
  2. Place the carrots, celery, onion, garlic and bay leaf in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the fried meatballs on top and pour 8 cups of broth over top (this is less broth than the stovetop method, because the slow cooker adds a lot of condensation back into the soup).
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours, or until the vegetables are tender and the meatballs are cooked through.
  4. During the final 15-20 minutes of cooking, stir in the dry pasta. Cover and continue cooking until the pasta is tender.
  5. Add the spinach to the pot at the very end and stir just until the leaves wilt.
Overhead image of two bowls of grandma's Italian Wedding Soup on a wooden table

What to Serve with Homemade Italian Wedding Soup

Garnish the bowls of soup with freshly grated Parmesan cheese or fresh herbs. Serve with a side of crusty baguette, no-knead bread, or garlic bread. A bowl of soup is also delicious with a crisp green salad dressed in Italian Balsamic Vinaigrette or a homemade Caesar salad.

Storage

Let the soup cool completely, then package in air tight containers and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Recipe Variations

  • Use ground turkey, ground pork, ground chicken, ground beef, ground sausage, or a combination of these for the meatballs.
  • Need a weeknight shortcut? Swap out the homemade meatballs for miniature (cocktail-size) frozen Italian meatballs. Just thaw the meatballs before adding them to the soup — no need to brown first. If using the Crock Pot method, you can put the frozen meatballs into the slow cooker at the very beginning with the veggies and broth.
  • Instead of acini di pepe, use another small pasta shape such as orzo, stelline, or ditalini. Just make sure that you check the package instructions for your specific shape to know exactly how long to cook the pasta in the broth.
  • In lieu of spinach, try adding kale, escarole, or Swiss chard to the soup. These sturdier greens will hold their texture and will not wilt as easily as the spinach, so you’ll need to add them to the soup at the same time that you add the pasta. This will give them a little bit of time to soften in the broth.
Close side shot of homemade Italian Wedding Soup recipe served in two handmade white ceramic bowls

Tips for the Best Italian Wedding Soup Recipe

  • Pan-frying the meatballs before adding them to the soup is an extra step, but it’s worth it! This contributes flavor and color to the meatballs, while the drippings also add an extra layer of flavor to the soup.
  • Cook the meatballs in two separate batches so that they have plenty of space in the pot. This makes it easier to flip the meatballs, and it also helps them brown (rather than steam).
  • Fresh herbs really brighten up a warm, cozy soup. I love to garnish with fresh parsley, but other nice options include fresh dill, thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano and chives. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice is also a nice finishing touch!
  • Make-Ahead: Save yourself time on the next batch by doubling the meatball recipe. Brown in a pan, cool, then freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. The next time you make a pot of this soup, you can just add the meatballs at the end as instructed.
Overhead shot of two bowls of authentic Italian Wedding Soup

More Italian Soup Recipes to Try

Close overhead image of the best Italian Wedding Soup in two white bowls

Italian Wedding Soup

5 from 6 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 12 cups
Calories 199 kcal
Full of miniature meatballs, tender pasta, and fresh veggies, this easy Italian Wedding Soup is healthy, hearty, and satisfying comfort food!

Ingredients
  

For the Meatballs:

  • ½ lb. ground chicken
  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • ¼ cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

For the Soup:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 large carrots (or 3-4 smaller carrots), peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • ½ of a large onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 cup uncooked small pasta (such as acini di pepe, orzo, stelline or ditalini)
  • 5 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley; grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Make the Meatballs:

  • In a large bowl, use your hands or a fork to gently combine all of the meatball ingredients. Use a tablespoon or a small scoop to shape the mixture into small meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet or other large tray.

Make the Soup:

  • In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or enough to coat the bottom of the pot) over medium-high heat. Place half of the meatballs in a single layer in the pot. Cook the meatballs until nicely browned, about 1-2 minutes per side (they do not need to be completely cooked through). Transfer the meatballs to a tray and repeat with additional oil and remaining meatballs. Set browned meatballs aside.
  • Leave the browned bits and drippings in the pot and heat another 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft – about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute.
  • Add broth and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat to medium or medium-low so that the broth is simmering. Stir in the pasta and meatballs. Cook until the pasta is tender (if using acini de pepe this will take about 10 minutes, for orzo this will be about 7-9 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, discard bay leaf, and stir in the spinach. The heat of the broth will wilt the spinach almost instantly. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Notes

Slow Cooker Method:
  1. Prepare the meatballs as instructed and pan-fry in a skillet.
  2. Place the carrots, celery, onion, garlic and bay leaf in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the fried meatballs on top and pour 8 cups of broth over top (this is less broth than the stovetop method, because the slow cooker adds a lot of condensation back into the soup).
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours, or until the vegetables are tender and the meatballs are cooked through.
  4. During the final 15-20 minutes of cooking, stir in the dry pasta. Cover and continue cooking until the pasta is tender. 
  5. Add the spinach to the pot at the very end and stir just until the leaves wilt.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 199kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 11gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 46mgSodium: 909mgPotassium: 460mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 2844IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 72mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: Italian Soup, Italian Wedding Soup
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan

This post was originally published in October, 2015. It was updated in January, 2021.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. This soup sounds so comforting, Blair! Wedding soup is one of my favorites, so I’m loving that you made it in the slow cooker. I can only imagine how delicious this tastes! And it’s so perfect for this cool weather that is finally headed my way!

  2. Another great slow cooker recipe! I’ve actually never had Italian Wedding soup. I do know I would love it though. Meatballs, pasta, and veggies… what’s not to love!

  3. Mmmm…this soup looks so cozy and delicious! 🙂 I can’t believe how simply it comes together either! This is one I have GOT to try for myself!! Pinned!

  4. 5 stars
    Hi! Love Love Love your site and recipes and my husband’s favorite soup is Italian wedding and am so going to surprise him with this one as it sounds out of this world and so healthy! Plan to try the others listed also. Thanks so much and have a wonderful weekend!
    P.S. OH HOW I WANT TO HUG THAT PRECIOUS LITTLE BOY!!???????????????

    1. Hi, Kathleen! Thanks so much for reading the blog and for your sweet note. It makes my day! And yes — Spence would love as many hugs as possible. He’s a snuggler! 🙂

      Enjoy the soup. It’s so healthy, but it tastes absolutely delicious. Best of all worlds! 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    Made this for dinner tonight, and loved how unbelievably easy it was to make my favourite soup. I did make several changes: used turkey instead of chicken, panko instead of whole wheat breadcrumbs, baby carrots (about 85gm) instead of large carrots (cut them into thirds) and brown Minute Rice instead of small pasta. Made the meatballs with my cookie scoop so they ended up more like matzo-ball sized (about 2″ across) and I cooked the whole thing on high for 2 hours instead of low for 4 (added the baby spinach and the minute rice for the last 20 minutes and turned the slow cooker to Low). I know that seems like a lot of changes, but it was still faithful enough that I can say with certainty this was a delicious recipe! Very simple to throw together and definitely tasty enough that I would happily make it again. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Hi, Tori! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the recipe, and thank you for sharing your changes. They all sound delicious!

      1. 5 stars
        Am just making this for the second of what will be many times to come. Like one previous commenter, I also used ground turkey instead of chicken; plus a little finely chopped parsley in the meatballs. Simply FABULOUS!

  6. 5 stars
    I love my crock pot so this was perfect in cold weather! I used turkey instead of chicken but whatever! Thanks