This delicious & comforting Italian wedding soup is full of never-ending flavor. From the homemade chicken broth and bitesize meatballs to the fresh carrots and spinach– you’ll keep coming back for more.
I grew up on Italian wedding soup; this recipe is more than just a delicious soup to me, it’s a little piece of my family. I have the most wonderful memories of sitting around the dining table at my Nana and Pap Pap’s house on Sunday’s, eating a giant bowl of wedding soup, topped with parmesan cheese and a thick slice of buttered Mancini’s bread on the side for dipping– true comfort food.
This soup was my Pap Pap’s mother’s recipe; my Nana wasn’t Italian, but she learned how to cook Italian food from my great grandmother (on my Pap Pap’s side). I grew up watching and learning how to make these family recipes from both my Nana and my Mom– just as my Mom grew up learning from her Nana and Mom. The passing on of family recipes is something so special, not just because the food is delicious, but because of the memories that are made over the years in the process. One of my favorite memories is from when I was younger helping to roll the meatballs for Italian wedding soup– if you’ve ever made this soup with me, or the lovely ladies mentioned above, you know exactly where I’m going with this story. Without fail, every time I was in charge of rolling meatballs (only for this recipe), I would hear the dreaded sentence “those are too big” over and over again. Italian wedding soup meatballs have a VERY specific size, and apparently that size is about the same as a small marble. In reality, they just need to be bitesize, but the Monti women wanted them to be just so ❤ . Honestly, I used to think it was insane, my meatball would be BARELY bigger than the last and sure enough, “that’s too big” would be lovingly spoken over my shoulder. I would take the most minuscule amount of meat away from the ball and re-roll it, thinking it looked exactly the same as before only this time it passed the size test. Eating the soup and tasting just how delicious those bitesize meatballs were, made all of that worth it.
The best part about this story? I have since taught my husband this recipe, and sure enough when he is rolling the meatballs… the words fly out of my mouth without control “those are too big”. It makes me laugh out loud every time I say it. I’m sure one day when Dylan and I have children and we’re making Italian wedding soup together, our kids will think I’m crazy for making them roll microscopic meatballs. Chances are, when they’re older, those tiny meatballs will make them laugh out loud & fill them with so much love, reminding them of cherished memories.
Thank you Nana and Mom for my cherished memories ❤
This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, I hope you all enjoy it just as much as I do. If you end up making it, leave a comment and tell me what you think!
What you’ll need to make the soup:
- 1 whole chicken
- 5-6 stalks of celery
- 6-7 large carrots, peeled
- 1 medium onion, peeled & cut in half
- 2 10 oz packages chopped frozen spinach
- 1 16 oz box acini de pepe pasta or orzo pasta (you may want a second box depending on how many noodles you like in your soup)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 5-6 whole cloves
- Parmesan cheese to top
What you’ll need to make the meatballs:
- 1 lb 85% lean ground beef
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 small onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
Servings: This recipe makes a large pot of soup; 12-15 servings depending on serving size. See bottom of the post for storing instructions!
- To make the broth: Cut carrots, celery, & onion in half. Stick 5-6 cloves into the outside of the onion– make sure they are pressed all the way into the onion so they don’t fall out into the broth. Note: The cloves are not pictured in this recipe solely because I ran out last time I made this soup!
2. Place whole chicken (make sure to remove any gizzards from the inside first), celery, carrot & onion into a large stockpot and fill with water just so that the top of the chicken is covered. Bring water up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (medium-low heat) and cover; allow this to simmer for 2 hours.
3. To make the meatballs: While the broth is simmering, it’s time to make your meatballs! Sauté 1/2 finely diced onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat– just until onions are soft and translucent. Remove from heat and allow them to cool. Meanwhile in a mixing bowl, combine ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, salt & pepper (I usually use my hand for this) and add the cooked onion/garlic once cooled. Be careful not to over mix; mix just enough for the ingredients to combine. Roll meatballs into small bitesize balls (about the size of a marble or 1 tsp) and set them on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
4. Once the broth has simmered for two hours use a slotted spoon or a spider strainer to remove the vegetables and then two forks to remove the whole chicken. Discard the onion and celery but save the carrots. Allow the carrots and chicken to cool enough to be handled. Slice carrots and return them to the broth. Next, break down the chicken & discard the skin; shred the white meat into bite size pieces and add it back into the broth. The dark meat can be put into a storage container– this recipe uses only the white meat (I typically use the dark meat for another recipe during the week). Once meatballs are done cooking they can be added into the soup.
Tip: If broth does not seem to have enough flavor from the chicken, chicken stock or chicken bullion can be added for more flavor.
5. One package at a time, microwave the frozen spinach for about 2 minutes– not long enough to cook it just long enough to defrost it. Rinse the spinach in a colander, until the water runs clear. If you don’t rinse your spinach the soup will turn green! Reference the image above for my set up. I use a bowl underneath my colander so I know when the water is clear. Once spinach is well-rinsed, squeeze out as much excess water as you can (a dishcloth or cheese cloth could be used for this step but using your hand works just as well) and add it into the soup.
6. Salt & pepper to taste. Cook on low until read to eat! Mmmmmmm 🙂
6. Cook orzo or acini de pepe pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta. DO NOT ADD THE PASTA INTO THE POT OF SOUP!! The pasta will be added directly to the bowl (see image below) and stored separately from the soup– this prevents the noodles from getting mushy.
Top with parmesan cheese and ENJOY ❤
Storing Instructions: This recipe makes a BIG pot of soup that you will enjoy all week long…. or maybe even longer. If you plan to continue enjoying all week like Dylan and myself you can store the entire pot of soup, covered with the lid, directly in your fridge. The noodles can be stored in a tupperware container in the fridge as well. If you don’t plan to have all the soup that week it freezes very well– just make sure to put it in a freezer safe container!