Italian Wedding Soup is one of my family’s all-time favorite soups to make during the winter. It’s such a comforting and filling soup, great for dinner!
This soup represents the perfect “marriage” between the vegetables and meatballs. Every humble ingredient complements each other so well, making one AMAZING one pot meal!
This Italian wedding soup is make-ahead and freezer friendly, and can even be made in the slow cooker. Truly one of our faves!
When it’s cold outside, all I want is a warm, comforting bowl of soup. This Italian wedding soup has become one of my top soups this season.
If you’ve never had Italian wedding soup before, you’re missing out! This delicious soup is made with a vegetable base, broth, meatballs, pasta, and spinach. It’s super simple and so, so flavorful. Toast some artisan bread or make rosemary focaccia, and dinner is served!
If you’re a soup lover like me, you must also try this Tomato Basil Bisque, Bacon Potato Corn Chowder, and Turkey Orzo Soup. So good!
Why we love making Italian wedding soup:
- A comforting and cozy soup for dinner! Just toast some bread on the side and dinner is served. I love how filling this soup is!
- Customizable: The original recipe is made with beef and pork meatballs, but you can use chicken or turkey too. Or any type of small pasta!
- Leftovers are great for lunch later in the week. It reheats really well.
- Prep ahead, make ahead and freezer friendly! Great for those busy weeknights.
You can also make the soup in the slow cooker. Instructions are included below in this post, or in the recipe card!
What is Italian Wedding Soup?
This classic Italian soup is originally called “minestra maritata,” which translates to “married soup.” Over time, it was mistranslated to “wedding soup,” hence the name Italian wedding soup.
Its name refers to the perfect marriage between the meat and vegetables, alluding to how well the humble meatballs pair with simple vegetables. Just as simple as that. So no, Italian wedding soup isn’t commonly served at weddings like some people think!
This is a very simple soup made with a vegetable base (onions, carrots, celery), broth, simple pork and beef meatballs, acini di pepe pasta, and a generous handful of fresh spinach. If you need a warm bowl of comfort, this is it!
What Type of Pasta to Use
Italian wedding soup is made with a type of pasta called acini di pepe. In Italian, it means “small seeds of pepper.” As its name suggests, it’s a small, round-shaped pasta.
You can find dried acini di pepe pasta in most grocery stores. As for substitutions, the most common options are ditalini and orzo pasta, but you can use any type of small shaped pasta.
If you can’t find any of the above, try pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous. Do not use the super tiny couscous that looks like semolina.
For the Italian meatballs:
- Ground beef and pork: This is the classic combination, but you can use Italian sausage, chicken, or turkey as well.
- Italian style bread crumbs: Adds nice texture to the meatballs. You can also use panko breadcrumbs or make your own breadcrumbs in a food processor.
- Minced garlic and fresh Italian parsley: Fresh garlic and herbs add so much great flavor. Make sure they are finely minced or chopped since the meatballs in this soup are pretty small.
- Grated parmesan cheese: For more savory flavors.
- Large eggs: Eggs help to bind everything together.
- Salt and pepper
For the soup:
- Onions, carrots, celery: Diced. These classic soup veggies add great flavor and texture.
- Fresh garlic and Italian seasoning: Adds lots of flavor to the base of the soup.
- Chicken broth and water: You can also use vegetable broth here.
- Acini di pepe pasta: This is a very small round-shaped pasta that expands when cooked.
- Baby spinach: Added at the very end. Spinach is my favorite because of its milder flavor, but kale or escarole can be used instead if desired.
- Parmesan cheese and fresh Italian parsley for garnish
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
Making this soup is very simple, and many of the components can be made in advance. Here’s an overview on how to make it. As always, the full instructions can be found in the recipe card down below.
Step 1 | Make the meatballs and sear
In a bowl, combine the meatball ingredients (full ingredient in the recipe card). Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Do not overmix. Shape into 1-inch meatballs. To make it easier, use a small cookie scoop and then quickly roll and shape into balls.
Then, heat some olive oil and sear the meatballs on the same Dutch oven or pot you’ll be using to make the soup. It should take about 3 minutes per side. Alternatively, instead of searing, you can broil them in the oven, turning once, until golden brown. The meatballs won’t be fully cooked but will finish cooking in the soup later.
Step 2 | Cook veggies and aromatics
In the same pot, add a few drizzles of olive oil and add the diced onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add the minced garlic and Italian seasoning. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Step 3 | Add broth, meatballs, and pasta
Stir in the 8 cups of chicken broth along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer. Then, return the seared meatballs into the pot and add the pasta. Bring to a boil again and then reduce to a simmer with the lid partially covered, for about 15 to 18 minutes until the pasta is cooked al dente and the meatballs are cooked thoroughly.
Step 4 | Finish with fresh spinach
Add a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves and cook for an extra minute. To serve, garnish the Italian wedding soup with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh Italian parsley.
The meatballs are make-ahead, as well as freezer friendly. I always make a large batch of meatballs for Italian wedding soup in advance to save time. This way, I can make a comforting bowl of this soup during the week in just 20 minutes. It is so convenient, and I can even use the meatballs for other recipes.
If planning to make the soup within 1 to 2 days, the prepared meatballs can be refrigerated until ready to use.
You can also freeze them. Form the meatballs and arrange on a sheet pan. Flash-freeze for 20-30 minutes or until hardened, and then store the meatballs in a large freezer-friendly resealable plastic bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.
Alternatively, pre-sear or bake the meatballs and freeze them. Make sure they are thoroughly cooked in the center before freezing.
Make Ahead and Freezing
Make ahead: Make it ahead and refrigerate it for up to 4 days, but don’t add the pasta yet because it will turn mushy when stored overnight. Instead, when ready to serve, cook the pasta with the prepared soup for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. If needed, add more broth.
Freezing: Freeze the soup (with the pasta included) in containers or resealable bags. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat on the stovetop, adding more broth as needed.
What I love about this Italian wedding soup is that it’s highly customizable. I’ll always love the authentic recipe the most, but if I need to swap a few ingredients here and there, it’s totally doable. Here are some ideas:
- For extra flavor, use Italian sausage (casings removed) to make the meatballs.
- Make chicken or turkey meatballs instead.
- Instead of spinach, use escarole or kale, although you may need to cook it longer until softened enough.
- Use other pasta shapes. Acini di pepe is the pasta we use in this recipe, but it can be hard to find sometimes. Other great choices are orzo or ditallini. Even pearl couscous will work.
Make it healthier by using chicken or turkey meatballs, as well as whole wheat pasta and low-sodium chicken broth.
Shortcuts: Use store-bought frozen meatballs and frozen or pre-diced vegetables.
Slow Cooker Method
Many of you have asked me how to make Italian wedding soup in the slow cooker. It’s super easy and very convenient. Here’s how to do it:
- Add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, Italian seasoning into a 6-quart slow cooker. Then, add the chicken broth and water, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8.
- 30 to 45 minutes before the cook time is up, add the seared meatballs and the pasta. Combine. Cover with the lid and finish cooking until the meatballs are fully cooked through and the pasta is al dente and tender.
- Season with more salt and pepper as needed. Add a few handfuls of fresh spinach and cook for an extra few minutes until softened.
Pairing and Serving Ideas
The classic way to serve this soup is with a side of rustic-style bread, such as Italian bread or any type of artisan bread. You can also serve it with Cheesy Garlic Bread, Rosemary Focaccia, or Garlic Herb Dinner rolls.
Also try this Italian Chopped Salad, which I love! For a lighter salad option, Lemon Arugula Salad is great.
It’s soup season! Here are some of our favorite comforting soups we’ve been loving all winter:
I’d recommend doing so for amazing flavor and aesthetics. However, it will still turn out fine if you don’t sear them.
Yes, see the “Make-Ahead Meatballs” section above for full instructions.
You can use pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous. Do not use the super tiny couscous that looks like semolina (also known as African couscous), as it doesn’t have the same texture as acini di pepe.
Yes! See the “Slow Cooker Method” section above for full instructions.
This recipe was published in 2018 and updated in January 2023 to include new photos and information, plus a few recipe modifications.
Tips for Success
- The meatballs should be pretty small, about 1 inch in size. For ease, I like to use a small cookie scoop. To prevent the meatball mixture from sticking to your hands, lightly oil your hands.
- Use fresh herbs and fresh garlic for the meatballs. It makes such a huge difference in flavor.
- Searing meatballs first ensures it’s extra delicious. Searing creates a wonderful layer of caramelized natural flavors. Sear in batches to not overcrowd the pan, otherwise they will steam instead. Alternatively, you can broil them in the oven.
- Add the spinach at the end so it doesn’t turn mushy.
- If you can’t find acini di pepe, try orzo or ditalini pasta.
I’d love to hear from you! If you loved my recipe, please consider leaving a 5-star rating and a comment down below. Sign up for my newsletter and follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest
Italian Wedding Soup
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ cup Italian style bread crumbs
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the soup
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 8 cups chicken broth - plus more as needed
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup dried acini de pepe pasta - or other small pasta, see note
- 3 to 4 cups baby spinach - plus more if desired
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Grated parmesan cheese for garnish
- Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
- Make the meatballs: In a medium bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients using your hands until evenly combined. Do not overmix. Shape into small 1-inch balls. Set aside.
- Heat a few drizzles of oil on a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat (I use a 6-quart pot). In batches, sear the meatballs until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Do not overcrowd, otherwise the meatballs will steam and not brown. Meatballs won’t be fully cooked at this point. Transfer meatballs to a plate and set aside.
- To the same pot, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onions, carrots, and celery until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, make some room in the center and add a drizzle of oil, the minced garlic, and Italian seasoning. Saute for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Stir in the chicken broth, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Return the seared meatballs to the pot, and add the acini di pepe pasta. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil again, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, with the lid partially covered, for about 15-18 minutes or until pasta is tender and meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
- Add spinach and simmer for another minute until softened. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- Garnish with grated parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve with bread, if desired. Enjoy!
- Acini di pepe: If you can’t find it, use other types of small pasta, such as ditalini or orzo. Any type of small pasta will work.
- The meatballs should be pretty small, about 1-inch in diameter. Use a small cookie scoop to make it easier to make the meatballs.
- Searing the meatballs adds so much flavor and dimension to this soup. Highly recommended! Alternatively, you can broil them in the oven on all sides until golden brown.
- Make ahead: If making ahead, hold off on adding the pasta, as it will turn mushy overnight. Instead prepare the soup as directed but don’t the pasta, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, reheat on the stovetop and add the pepe, cooking for 15 to 18 minutes or until al dente.
- Make-ahead meatballs: The meatballs can be made up to 2 months in advance and frozen. Or up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.
- Leftovers and reheating: Store in an airtight container and refrigerate. The pasta will continue absorbing liquid overnight, so you may need to add more broth when reheating.
- Freezing: This soup can be frozen for up to 2 months. Freeze in portioned containers or resealable bags.
- Slow cooker method: Add carrots, onions, celery, garlic, Italian seasoning into a 6-quart slow cooker. Then, combine chicken broth and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8. 30-45 minutes before the cook time is up, add the seared meatballs and the pasta. Cover and finish cooking until cooked through. Season with more salt and pepper as needed. Add spinach and cook until softened.
- Acini di pepe: Orzo or ditalini pasta.
- Beef and pork meatballs: Chicken, turkey, or Italian sausage.
- Breadcrumbs: Panko or homemade breadcrumbs.
- Chicken broth: Vegetable broth.
- Spinach: Kale or escarole.
jackie J jones says
Can I make this in a crockpot?
Yup! Slow cooker instructions are in the blog post or under “Notes” within the recipe card.
I just made this with vegan sausage and veggie broth – it was still delicious! Great, straight forward recipe. My man said it hit the spot. I didn’t even know he had ever heard of this soup, let alone was craving it!
Hi Kirra! Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so so glad that you guys liked it 🙂
Cheese Curd In Paradise says
My husband’s favorite soup! Yours looks so hearty and the veggies look perfectly cooked!
Not sure how I’ve never eaten or made this, it’s packed with so many of my favorite things!
Eileen Kelly says
I love Italian Wedding Soup and your recipe is just delicious! Love your kitchen tips to help make a great soup!
I love all the different textures in this soup. Not only that, but is so flavorful and beautiful as well. Definitely going into my regular rotation!
Colleen - Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck says
Absolutely yummy! This is definitely going on my must-make list!
This sounds like the perfect project for a snow day!
Thanks for celebrating National Soup Swap Day with us!
Jan Thomas says
What a great soup and great tips!
Wendy Klik says
Italian Wedding Soup is sooooo good. I have also used chicken meatballs in my with great results.
This has been on my list to make for some time now but never seem to find a recipe that wows me….until now! Thank you!
Valentina | The Baking Fairy says
This soup looks fabulous! I’m Italian and can you believe I’ve never had or made italian wedding soup?! It must be from a different region than where my family is from. I will have to give this a try! 🙂
haha! yes, give it a try!! 🙂
One of my all time favorites! So good!
I bet your soup is better than the soup from the market! It looks amazing.
aww thank you Karen 🙂
Amy (Savory Moments) says
This looks perfect! This is a favorite soup of mine, but I’ve never actually made it. I need to try this out before winter is over!
yes, you need to! 🙂