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Italian Wedding Soup is a delicious chicken soup with meatballs, fresh greens, small pasta, and Parmesan cheese.
What is Italian Wedding Soup?
It’s delicious chicken soup with meatballs, fresh greens and other vegetables, plus small pasta, and Parmesan cheese on top. This hearty soup is a complete and filling meal all by itself.
According to Wikipedia, the term “wedding soup” is really a mistranslation of the Italian phrase “minestra maritata” or “married soup”. But the reference is to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together – not that this soup is served at Italian weddings!
Italian Wedding Soup was originally considered a peasant dish – made with affordable ingredients on hand.
Why you’ll love Italian Wedding Soup
- The different ingredients in this delicious soup really DO go very well together!
- It’s an easy soup to prepare, and it makes a very satisfying meal in one bowl.
- It’s a budget-friendly recipe and a delicious way to feed a hungry crowd.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Soffritto – This is the Italian culinary term for carrots, onions, and celery sauteed in olive oil and it makes a flavorful base for many soup recipes. (In French cooking, this is called a mirepoix. In Spanish cooking, their sofrito swaps out the carrots for bell pepper.)
- Chicken Stock – Make a homemade chicken stock for the best flavor or buy your favorite canned or boxed stock. You’ll need a total of four quarts.
- Cooked Chicken Meat – If making that homemade stock, add the leftover cooked chicken meat to this soup. If using canned or boxed stock, buy a rotisserie chicken and pick the meat off the bones.
- Italian-Style Meatballs – Smaller, bite-sized meatballs are ideally suited for this soup recipe. You can bake up a batch of meatballs ahead of time following this recipe or fry them following this recipe.
- Escarole – Found in any supermarket, this somewhat bitter leafy lettuce loses most of its bitterness when cooked, and the tender greens really complement the other flavors in the soup. You can also use kale or spinach – just note that the cooking time for different greens varies quite a bite, so adjust accordingly.
- Parmesan Cheese
- Small Pasta – We used ditalini in our soup, but you can also use acini de pepe, orzo, or even pearl couscous instead.
- Crusty bread – To serve with the soup.
Other Meatball Options
Some versions of this recipe found online combine Italian sausage and beef together for the meatballs. While that’s definitely a flavorful option, it isn’t a traditional meatball for Italian Wedding Soup. (If you do decide to make your meatballs with sausage meat, be sure to drain any rendered fat from cooking the meatballs to avoid adding it to the soup.)
Special Tools Needed
- 8-Quart (or larger) Soup Pot
- Cutting board and Sharp knife
- Various Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Colander – To rinse the escarole.
- Pot – To cook the pasta.
- Ribbed Pan – If grilling the bread slices.
This soup comes together quickly so have all ingredients prepped and portioned out before beginning to cook. Read Cook Like a Pro with Mise en Place.
How do I make Italian Wedding Soup?
- Prepare the meatballs ahead of time according to recipe instructions. If making this soup with homemade chicken stock, you’ll also want to make that ahead of time.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, cool, and set aside.
- Slice and grill bread. Set it aside.
- Saute carrots, onions, and celery in olive oil in large soup pot, then add stock and cook.
- Add cooked chicken meat and cooked meatballs and heat through.
- Add escarole and cook to wilt.
- Stir in Parmesan and adjust seasonings.
- Serve by spooning cooked pasta into serving bowls (see serving suggestion below) and top with hot soup and additional Parmesan cheese. Serve grilled bread on the side.
We always recommend that you keep your cooked pasta separate from the big pot of soup, so that the pasta doesn’t absorb the broth as it sits in the hot soup.
Instead, when serving, add a portion of the pasta to the bowl and ladle the hot soup over it. The heat from the soup will warm the pasta up for eating.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Italian Wedding Soup ahead of time? Yes, we think this soup tastes better the second day as the flavors develop.
- How do I store leftovers? Store covered in the refrigerator for up to three days. See Serving Suggestion above – we suggest leaving the soup and pasta separate.
- How do I reheat leftovers? Heat in a saucepan or the microwave.
- Can I freeze? Yes, this soup freezes well, just freeze without the pasta.
Click here for more delicious Soup Recipes!
12 ounces dry small pasta such as ditalini
1 loaf crusty bread for serving
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups carrots cut into half-inch dice
1 1/2 cups yellow onion cut into half-inch dice
1 cup celery cut into half-inch dice
4 quarts chicken stock, homemade or canned/boxed
3 cups cooked chicken meat, shredded
24 one-ounce cooked meatballs
1 large head escarole, cored, coarsely cut up and rinsed of sand under cold water
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Cook pasta per box directions, cool and set aside.
- Grill the bread slices on a ribbed pan with a little brush of oil. Set aside.
- In an 8-quart or large soup pot, over medium high heat, add the olive oil and once hot, add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the stock and bring to a boil, then simmer until the vegetables are tender, 3-5 more minutes.
- Add the cooked shredded chicken meat and the cooked meatballs and bring to a simmer.
- Add the escarole and cook just to wilt and soften, about 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the Parmesan cheese then just heat to serving temperature.
- To serve, place cooked pasta in each bowl, then top with soup and additional Parmesan cheese.
- Serve with the grilled bread slices on the side.
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Note that prep/cook time listed above does not include time to make homemade chicken stock or to cook the meatballs.