Since school has resumed, I’ve brought back one of my favorite weekend traditions — cooking a cozy dinner for the family on Sunday evening.
Around 2pm, with the sound of football on in the background, plus the kids running around, I’ll uncork a bottle of red and get to chopping. In contrast to the busyness of our weeknights, Sunday afternoons are usually free of any sort of serious responsibility (besides laundry. ALWAYS LAUNDRY!) so I love taking advantage of that time to make something extra special for dinner.
Dishes like slow braised stews and homemade gluten free noodles are where I usually drift, although this Italian Wedding Soup recipe is currently claiming top spot — and not just on the list of favorite Sunday dinners, but on my list of favorite soup recipes of ALL TIME!
Craveable Italian Wedding Soup
Italian Wedding Soup combines luscious homemade pork meatballs with a rich, parmesan infused broth, plus plenty of fresh vegetables and pasta. It’s a dish that originated in Italy centuries ago (although some would argue Spain was the first to combine broth, greens, and bits of meat!) that has been slightly “Americanized” over the years.
I grew up eating my Mom’s Italian Wedding Soup, and my Mom grew up eating her Mom’s Wedding Soup (she still has my Grandma’s printed recipe with her writing off to the side: “Good.” — which makes me laugh because that’s totally her.) We ate it with such enthusiasm as kids that my Mom would buy cans of it at the grocery store for my brothers and I to eat as an after school snack!
Clearly wedding soup and I have had a decades long love affair, and this particular version has me ready to define the relationship – I am LOCKING IT DOWN!
Your New Go-To Meatball Recipe
The recipe for Italian Wedding Soup is sponsored by my friends at the National Pork Board and features the aforementioned juicy ground pork meatballs. Get ready to immediately replace your go-to meatball recipe after one bite of these super tender meatballs – they’re like little flavor bombs. We usually use ground pork in Asian dishes, though I love giving it an Italian spin – pork is extremely versatile.
Now, I prefer teeny tiny meatballs in my Italian Wedding Soup so I use a teaspoon to scoop up the ground pork mixture – you’ll get about 75 mini meatballs in total (this is where having a free Sunday afternoon comes in handy!) It means, though, that you’ll get a yummy meatball in each bite of soup vs having two or three giant meatballs per bowl that you have to ration.
Try this Swap for Super Tender Meatballs
I use small torn bits of soft gluten free white bread soaked in grated onion instead of bread crumbs to not only keep the pork meatballs together, but make them incredibly tender. Next, the meatballs are baked until sizzling and caramelized, and then dropped into the soup. I much prefer the method of baking the meatballs first, vs dropping them into the bubbling broth to poach, as they impart a wonderful roasted flavor to the broth.
Gluten Free Pasta Swap
Traditionally (well, the American version anyway!) Italian Wedding Soup is made with acini di pepe pasta, which looks like tiny little beads once cooked. Ancini di pepe is nearly impossible to find gluten free though, so my version calls for using gluten free orzo in its place. The taste and texture is spot on. So grateful for this easy swap!
How to Store Italian Wedding Soup Leftovers
Italian Wedding Soup reheats beautifully – even with the gluten free orzo – so scoop leftovers into individual sized storage containers to reheat for hearty, comforting, and filling lunches all week long.
How To Make Italian Wedding Soup
Step 1: Prepare The Meatballs
Start by grating an onion on the fine side of a box grater. I like to do this on a plate with a lip to catch the juices from the onion.
Add the grated onion + juices plus small torn gluten free white bread to a large mixing bowl then mix and let the bread sit and soften for a minute or two. If you don’t need to eat GF, you can use regular white bread.
To the softened bread add freshly grated parmesan cheese, a large egg, Italian seasoning, fresh garlic, salt, and pepper then stir to combine.
Next crumble ground pork over the top then use your hands to mix until just combined. Avoid over-mixing to avoid tough meatballs!
Use a teaspoon to scoop out the pork mixture then roll and place the meatballs onto a parchment paper or foil lined, nonstick sprayed baking sheet. The meatballs can be very close together – just not touching.
Step 2: Bake The Meatballs
Bake the meatballs at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until they’re golden brown and cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Be prepared for only 2/3 of these to make it into the soup pot – they are perfectly poppable!!
Step 3: Prepare the Soup
While the meatballs are baking, get to work on the soup. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, saute carrots, celery, and shallots in extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until tender, 8-10 minutes.
Next add chicken stock (I prefer stock over chicken broth for a more flavorful soup!) plus a parmesan cheese rind, which will infuse the soup with parmesan flavor, then bring to a boil.
Once bubbling, add gluten free orzo then simmer until the pasta is tender, 20 minutes or so.
Once the orzo is tender, add the baked meatballs – crispy bits and all – which will melt into the soup.
Next add baby spinach that’s been roughly chopped then cook until wilted and tender, 3-4 minutes.
Last but not least, give the soup a couple of big stirs to get the broth swirling, then stream in a mixture of egg whisked with parmesan cheese then keep stirring until the egg creates thin threads.
Trust me. Just TRUST! The egg + parm power duo gives this Italian Wedding Soup recipe an elegant richness and more parmesan flavor. It’s a can’t miss touch!
Let the soup sit and thicken for 20 minutes or so, then ladle into bowls and serve. Oooo, this Italian Wedding Soup is SUCH a treat. I hope you love each and every drop – enjoy!
More Lick Your Bowl Worthy Soup Recipes
- Creamy Wild Rice Mushroom Soup
- Smoked Sausage, White Bean and Spinach Soup
- Italian Sausage, Spinach and Tomato Soup
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Italian Wedding Soup
Get ready to fall in love with Italian Wedding Soup! This hearty soup full of vegetables, pasta, and homemade meatballs will win you over.
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced (~1 cup)
- 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced (~1 cup)
- 1 large shallot or small onion, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 10 cups chicken stock
- 1 parmesan cheese wedge rind (optional)
- 3/4 cup dry gluten free orzo
- 3oz fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 egg
- 2 Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
- For the Pork Meatballs (makes ~75 meatballs):
- 1/2 cup small-torn pieces of soft gluten free white bread (crusts removed first)
- 1/4 cup finely grated onion + juices
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 egg, whisked
- 2 cloves garlic, microplaned, pressed, or finely minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pepper, to taste
- 1lb ground pork
- For the Meatballs: Preheat oven to 400 degrees then line a half sheet pan with parchment paper or non stick sprayed foil. To a large bowl add torn bread and grated onion then mix to combine and let sit for 1 minute. Add parmesan cheese, egg, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper then stir to combine. Crumble ground pork over the top then use your hands to mix until just combined.
- Use a teaspoon to portion meatballs out then gently roll in your hands and place on prepared baking sheet - meatballs can be very close together but not touching. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Set meatballs aside - can be done a few days ahead of time.
- Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and shallot/onion, season with salt and pepper, then saute until the vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes. If the vegetables are taking too long to soften, I like to add a glug of extra chicken broth to the pot then place a lid on top and let them steam for a few minutes.
- Add chicken stock and parmesan cheese rind (if using) then turn heat up to high to bring liquid to a boil. Add pasta then turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until pasta is al dente, 20 minutes or so. Add cooked meatballs then stir to combine. Bring soup back up to a bubble (may need to turn heat up a touch) then add spinach and cook until wilted and tender, 2-3 minutes.
- Whisk egg and parmesan cheese together very well in a small dish. Give the soup a couple of big stirs to get the liquid swirling in one direction then slowly stream in egg mixture. Continue to stir to create small threads of egg (NOTE: the eggs are NOT curdled, they are COOKED - like egg drop soup!) Taste then add more salt and/or pepper if desired. Let soup sit and thicken for 10-15 minutes before removing parmesan cheese rind, scooping into bowls, and serving.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
Visit Pork.org for more cooking ideas and inspiration!