This Italian Wedding Soup recipe is loaded with homemade meatballs, acini de pepe pasta, and veggies in a wonderful savory broth with Parmesan cheese on top. It's so satisfying all year long!

An image of a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup with homemade meatballs.
Table of Contents
  1. What is Italian Wedding Soup?
  2. Why We Love This Recipe
  3. What You'll Need
  4. How to Make Italian Wedding Soup
  5. Recipe FAQ's
  6. Tips for Success
  7. Substitutions and Variations
  8. Other Soup Recipes You'll Love
  9. Italian Wedding Soup Recipe

During the winter months, I probably make soup at least once or twice a week. This Italian wedding soup is one of our favorites to have for dinner with some Crusty Bread and maybe a Simple Salad on the side.

I used to eat this all the time when I lived in New Jersey, where the winter temperatures were so cold I thought I would never feel warm again!

This easy soup recipe tastes great at any time of year. It’s hearty and filling despite its broth-like appearance and is healthy too as it's packed with veggies and protein!

What is Italian Wedding Soup?

Italian wedding soup is a delicious broth soup filled with meatballs (the protein), and spinach (the primary vegetable, although there is also celery and carrots). It is a fantastic soup that is loaded with flavor and texture in every bite. 

Why is it that Italians make the best soups? I know our versions are probably fairly Americanized, but we just love this Zuppa Toscana, my Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup, and this Easy Minestrone Soup!

An image of a bowl of broth-based soup with Italian meatballs and vegetables.

Why We Love This Recipe

  • Change the seasoning to suit your taste or add a little spiciness to the mix!
  • This recipe is great for using up leftover veg, it's a very versatile soup.
  • This hearty soup ready in less than an hour, I know it'll become a family favorite!

What You'll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Meatballs

  • Meat - We'll use a mixture of ground beef and ground pork in this recipe. I typically use 85/15 ground meat in recipes where I can as it gives you the best flavor without being too greasy!
  • Egg - Use to bind the meatball ingredients together.
  • Breadcrumbs - Gives the meatballs a bit more substance to help bind everything together.
  • Cheese - Parmesan cheese works well in this soup, though you can use a different similar cheese if you wish.
  • Garlic - Freshly minced garlic is always the way to go in recipes for the freshest flavor!
  • Seasoning - Use a combination of fresh parsley, dried basil, dried oregano, onion powder, kosher salt, and black pepper for the meatballs.
  • Oil - Olive oil works well for browning meatballs. You can use vegetable oil or canola oil if you prefer.

Soup

  • Vegetables - Use the classic trifecta of carrots, yellow onion, and celery for the base of this hearty soup.
  • Broth - Use a mixture of flavorful broth for this soup, I use chicken broth and beef broth. You can use vegetable broth in place of one or both of these, but the flavor of the soup will be different.
  • Seaoning - A mixture of dried basil, dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried thyme, kosher salt, and black pepper works wonders here. You can use an Italian seasoning blend if you prefer.
  • Pasta - Use Acini De Pepe pasta for a traditional soup. You can use Orzo pasta if you prefer for a similar look.
  • Leafy Greens - Use fresh spinach kale, curly endive, chard, baby spinach, or another bitter leafy green to add color and extra nutrients to this soup.

Garnish

  • Cheese - Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese will top this soup wonderfully.
  • Parsley - Chopped fresh parsley makes a perfect garnish. You can use another fresh herb if you prefer.
An image of a pot of homemade Italian wedding soup next to two bowls of soup.

How to Make Italian Wedding Soup

  1. Make meatballs mixture. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the meatballs together, except the olive oil. I find this is easiest to do with my hands by squishing until everything is evenly combined. Just try not to overwork the meatballs or they will end up being tough.
  2. Make meatballs. Shape the meat mixture into small 1-inch meatballs. I usually end up with about 50-60 meatballs, depending on how small I make them.
  3. Brown meatballs. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs into the pot in a single layer and brown them for 2-3 minutes on each side (the meatballs don't need to be cooked all the way through, just browned to give them color and flavor). You may need to work in batches to brown all of the meatballs. Transfer the browned meatballs to a plate, draining any grease.
  4. Sauté vegetables. Using the same pot or dutch oven, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When it is hot, add in the carrots, onion, and celery. Saute for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.
  5. Combine ingredients. Add in the chicken and the beef broths, along with the basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium. Add in the meatballs and acini de pepe pasta.
  6. Cook. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are cooked through and the pasta is a dente. Stir in the spinach, then serve. Garnish with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.
A collage of images showing how to make Italian wedding soup.

Recipe FAQ's

Why do they call it Italian wedding soup?

Despite the name, Italian wedding soup isn’t actually served at Italian weddings. Supposedly the name comes from the Italian phrase "minestra maritata", which should maybe be translated as "marriage soup" because it was meant to describe the marriage of flavors from the vegetables and protein in this classic recipe.

Is acini de pepe the same as pearl couscous?

Pearl couscous or Israeli couscous is a similar size to acini di pepe pasta, and while they are both pasta, they are not the same thing. They should be fairly interchangeable in most recipes, so it makes a good substitution here.

How long does homemade soup last in the fridge?

Keep Italian Wedding soup in an airtight container inside our fridge, you can expect it to last up to 4 days and be just fine. 

Can you freeze Italian wedding soup?

You can freeze your soup after it cools. Store your soup in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and freeze for up to 3 months. 
You can either thaw it overnight in the fridge and heat the soup when you’re ready to enjoy it, or you can even dump the frozen soup into a pot (run some hot water around the edge of the container you froze it in to loosen it first), and heat that way.

Tips for Success

  • Don't feel too tied to the recipe. If you have leftover kale, chard, curly endive, cabbage, or escarole in your fridge, go ahead and add that in place of, or along with, the spinach. You can pack this soup with as many veggies as you feel like! I used spinach the day I made this batch because that's what I had on hand, but kale and curly endive are my other go-to choices for this recipe, and they don't wilt as much which gives the soup more texture.
  • I typically brown my meatballs for Italian wedding soup in the same pot that I cook the soup in on the stovetop. The fond (those little browned bits on the bottom of the pan) after cooking the meatballs adds wonderful flavor to the soup base. But you could bake the meatballs instead by omitting the oil and cooking them for 12-15 minutes in a 400-degree F oven.

Meatball Size

This recipe will make 50-60 small meatballs for the soup. You can make the meatballs larger if you don't want to bother making small ones, just take bigger portions of the meat when you make it into balls, and make sure to brown the entire outside for the best flavor.

An image of a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup with meatballs and spinach.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Pasta. Orzo pasta or even alphabet pasta can be used in place of the acini de pepe.
  • Spice. Turn up the heat by adding some red pepper flakes either into the meatballs or as a garnish on top before serving!
  • Meat. I made my meatballs with half ground beef and half ground pork, but you could use Italian sausage, all beef, or even substitute ground turkey for a lighter version.
  • Oven-Baked Meatballs: You can omit the oil and bake the meatballs first if you prefer. Just preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, then arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 12-15 minutes until mostly cooked. They don't have to cook all the way through because they will finish cooking in the broth.
  • Crock Pot Method: Make the meatballs and brown them in a pan first. Add the meatballs to a large crock pot with all of the remaining soup ingredients except for the pasta and spinach. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW for 8 hours. Add the acini de pepe pasta and cook on low for 30 minutes, then stir in the spinach and serve.
  • Instant Pot Method: Make the meatballs and brown them in the Instant Pot using 2 tablespoons of oil on the SAUTE setting. Remove the meatballs and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then saute the carrots, onion, and celery for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the browned meatballs and all remaining soup ingredients back into the instant pot except for the acini de pepe pasta and spinach and close the lid, setting the valve to seal. Cook on HIGH manual pressure for 10 minutes, then do a quick release. Add the acini de pepe and use the saute function to cook the soup for 10 minutes until the pasta is done, then stir in the spinach and serve.
Top view of Italian Wedding Soup in two white bowls with a pot of the soup behind it.

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Italian Wedding Soup

5 from 1 vote
Amy Nash
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 servings
This Italian Wedding Soup recipe is loaded with homemade meatballs, acini de pepe pasta, and veggies in a wonderful savory broth with Parmesan cheese on top. It's so satisfying all year long!

Ingredients
  

Meatballs

  • ½ lb. ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • 1 egg beaten
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil divided

Soup

  • 2 large carrots peeled and diced, about 1 cup
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped, about 1¼ cups
  • 2 celery stalks diced, about 1 cup
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ cup Acini De Pepe pasta
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach kale curly endive, chard, or other bitter leafy green

Garnish

  • Additional freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Fresh parsley chopped

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the meatballs together except for the olive oil. I find this is easiest to do with my hands by squishing until everything is evenly combined. Just try not to overwork the meatballs or they will be tough.
  • Shape the meat mixture into small 1-inch meatballs. I usually end up with about 50-60 meatballs, depending on how small I make them.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in a single layer and brown for 2-3 minutes on each side (the meatballs don't need to be cooked all the way through, just browned to give them color and flavor). You may need to work in batches to brown all of the meatballs. Transfer the browned meatballs to a plate. Drain any grease.
  • Using the same pot or dutch oven, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When it is hot, add the carrots, onion, and celery. Saute for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.
  • Add the chicken and beef broths, along with the basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and add the meatballs and acini de pepe pasta. If using a tougher green like kale, chard, or curly endive, add it at this point as well.
  • Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are cooked through and the pasta is al dente. Stir in the spinach (if using), then serve. Garnish with freshly parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Notes

  • Oven-Baked Meatballs: You can omit the oil and bake the meatballs first if you prefer. Just preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, then arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 12-15 minutes until mostly cooked. They don't have to cook all the way through because they will finish cooking in the broth.
  • Crock Pot Method: Make the meatballs and brown them in a pan first. Add the meatballs to a large crock pot with all of the remaining soup ingredients except for the pasta and spinach. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW for 8 hours. Add the acini de pepe pasta and cook on low for 30 minutes, then stir in the spinach and serve.
  • Instant Pot Method: Make the meatballs and brown them in the Instant Pot using 2 tablespoons of oil on the SAUTE setting. Remove the meatballs and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then saute the carrots, onion, and celery for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the browned meatballs and all remaining soup ingredients back into the instant pot except for the acini de pepe pasta and spinach and close the lid, setting the valve to seal. Cook on HIGH manual pressure for 10 minutes, then do a quick release. Add the acini de pepe and use the saute function to cook the soup for 10 minutes until the pasta is done, then stir in the spinach and serve.
Storage:
  • Store: Keep Italian Wedding soup in an airtight container inside your fridge, for up to 4 days.
  • Freeze: You can freeze your soup after it cools. Store your soup in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and freeze for up to 3 months. You can either thaw it overnight in the fridge and heat the soup when you’re ready to enjoy it, or you can even dump the frozen soup into a pot (run some hot water around the edge of the container you froze it in to loosen it first), and heat that way.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 325kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 1600mg | Potassium: 677mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 5929IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 167mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. This soup is awesome! We added mushrooms, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. We will definitely make it again! So glad I found this site. Loving all the great recipes.

  2. I wanted to partake in the "Soup Season Showdown" and when I checked out this recipe, I was super excited! I've made many House of Nash Eats recipes (so I knew it would be delicioso) and this is one of the best Italian Wedding Soups I've ever eaten. Ms. Nash gives an easy recipe, packed with flavor and perfect for cold nights. Or soup-moods, which I'm often in! The broth is rich and well-balanced, the meatballs tender, the veggies so flavorful, and the pasta so fun (my kids' critique, haha). This has definitely earned a spot in our family's monthly dinner rotation. Bonus: my husband and all four of our kids love it, too!