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close up of italian wedding soup with deep broth, meatballs, pasta and greens in a white bowl.
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5 from 8 votes

Italian Wedding Soup

I don't know about you, but I'm about to marry this Italian Wedding Soup recipe. It is PACKED with goodness! The flavorful broth, the juicy meatballs, the tiny pasta, the mountain of healthy greens making you feel like you're probably going to live to 150 year old after eating all this leafy stuff. Make it on the stove or in the slow cooker, easy!
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 10
Calories: 313kcal
Author: Karen


For the meatballs

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork or mild Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 4 cloves garlic smashed and minced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion chopped fine, or grated
  • 1 tablsepoon vegetable oil for frying (I use light olive oil)

For the soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 large yellow onion chopped
  • 3 cups celery chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 4 cloves garlic smashed and minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine I used cooking wine
  • 2 cups beef broth* I use Better than Bouillon, see note
  • 12 cups chicken broth* I use Better than Bouillon, see note
  • 5 large carrots shredded or chopped
  • 5 sprigs thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 parmesan rind optional
  • 3 ounces spinach chopped
  • 3 ounces dinosaur kale (Lacinato kale) (or any kale) or escarole, chopped
  • 1 cup acini di pepe pasta or fregola, or ditalini, or any tiny pasta

To garnish

  • fresh parsley chopped, to garnish
  • parmesan grated, to garnish
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • crushed red pepper


For the meatballs:

  • In a large bowl, add all the meatball** ingredients: 1/2 pound ground beef, 1/2 pound ground pork, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon oregano, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs.
  • You need 4 cloves of garlic and 1/2 yellow onion for the meatballs, plus more for the soup itself. So do yourself a favor and smash and mince 8 cloves of garlic (add half to the meat mixture, set the rest aside.)
    Use a food processor or some time and patience with a knife to chop 1/2 yellow onion into tiny pieces. You can also use a cheese grater if you like. You want these pieces of onion to be quite small so that they melt into the tiny meatballs.
    While you are already crying, use a knife to chop the remaining 1 and 1/2 onions. These onions don't have to be chopped especially small, they are going in the soup. Set aside.
  • Once you have the garlic and onion added to the meat mixture, use your hands to mix it all together. I like to use disposable gloves for this task. Using your hands really is the best way to combine meat; a spoon or spatula will never be able to get it as thoroughly mixed, and you will make your meat tough and heavy in your attempts to try.
  • In a large soup pot (I use my 6 quart Dutch oven) heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium heat. When it is shimmery, start adding meatballs. Use a 1-inch cookie scoop (or your hands) to shape the dough into tiny meatballs. Roll them between your palms to help them keep their shape while frying.
  • Add the meatballs to the hot oil one at a time, with plenty of space between each one so that they get nice and browned. Add as many meatballs as you can without having any touch each other.
  • Cook for about 1-2 minutes. Once browned, use metal tongs to carefully scrape the underside of the meatball and flip it to the other side. Cook for another 1 minute until browned.
    Adjust the heat as necessary so they don't burn. You do not need to cook the center of the meatball; it will finish cooking in the soup. You just want nice brown edges.
  • Remove the browned meatballs to a plate and continue until all the meatballs are done. Add more oil if necessary. If the bottom of your pan turns black, embrace it, it adds flavor. If the oil starts smoking and it smells scorched, you've gone too far. Remove it all, wash the pot, and try again at a lower temperature. We are making our soup in this pot and you don't want that scorched flavor.

Make the soup

  • Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to whatever grease is leftover in the pot. Turn the heat to medium and add 1 and 1/2 chopped yellow onions, 3 cups chopped celery, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, and 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning. Let saute for 5-7 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
  • Add 4 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
  • Add 1/2 cup white wine and scrape up all the browned bits on the pan. Cook for a couple minutes until the wine is mostly evaporated.
  • Add 2 cups beef broth and 10 cups chicken broth, see note* (I love to use Better Than Bouillon bases). Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
  • Peel and trim 5 large carrots. Use a food processor or grater to shred the carrots. (You can also just chop them. I love the texture of shredded carrots in soup.) Add the carrots any which way you do them.
  • Add 5 sprigs of thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. Add 1 bay leaf.
  • Add in 1 parmesan rind, if you have one. It's totally okay if you don't!
  • Add all the meatballs to the soup. By this point the soup should be at a boil; turn the heat down to medium or medium low to maintain a low simmer.
  • Let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prep your greens. Slice the stems off each leaf of kale, then chop. You want about 3 ounces (about 4 cups). This is totally to taste, so feel free to add more or less. Chop 3 ounces spinach (about 2 cups) into bite size pieces.
  • Add the kale, spinach, and 1 cup acini de pepe pasta to the soup. Continue simmering on medium heat for another 6-10 minutes, until the kale is soft and the pasta is al dente.
    (If you know you are going to have leftovers, you might consider boiling the pasta in a separate pot, draining, and adding it to each bowl of soup. The longer leftovers sit, the more the pasta will absorb the broth of your soup. Soggy pasta and broth-less soup would be a tragic outcome indeed.)
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and top with fresh chopped parsley, grated Parmesan cheese, and cracked black pepper or crushed red pepper. Serve with crusty French bread!

Slow cooker Italian Wedding Soup

  • Make the meatballs as instructed. Add the meatballs and these ingredients to a 6 quart slow cooker: 1 and 1/2 chopped onions, 3 cups celery, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, 4 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup white wine, 2 cups beef broth, 12 cups chicken broth, 5 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 1 parmesan rind (optional).
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours. Add 5 shredded carrots, 3 ounces chopped spinach, 3 ounces chopped kale, and 1 cup acini de pepe pasta. Stir, cover, and turn the crock pot to high heat. Cook for another 20-30 minutes until the carrots are tender and the pasta is al dente. Serve with chopped parsley, parmesan, and black pepper or crushed red pepper.


*I love to use Better Than Bouillon Base for my soups. Use 1 teaspoon base for 1 cup water. So for this soup, I used 2 teaspoons beef base, and 1/4 cup chicken base, and 14 cups water. (3 quarts + 2 cups) I don't mix the base with the water first, I just add the water to the soup and then stir in the base. 
**I think it's super annoying to have half a pound of beef and pork leftover. When I make this, I always double all the meatball ingredients and then split the mixed meat in half. Make tiny meatballs for the soup, then use the other half to make regular size meatballs. Bake on a foil-lined baking sheet at 450 for 10-15 minutes until browned. Let cool, then carefully place meatballs in a few ziplocks and freeze. Don't lump them all together or they will freeze in a big mass. You can use these meatballs for any Italian dish, spaghetti and meatballs, Meatballs with Rice and Peas, Raspberry Balsamic meatballs, etc. 
Doubled meatball ingredient list:
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon oregano
  • 4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 yellow onion, minced well
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed and minced


Calories: 313kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 1787mg | Potassium: 608mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 7982IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 226mg | Iron: 3mg