Why I love this easy Italian Wedding Soup recipe: it has a delicate and flavorful broth, but is entirely hearty because it’s loaded with meatballs! It’s a crowd-pleasing meal that you can whip up in about half an hour.
I’m feeling pretty foolish at the moment. I’ve always believed that Italian Wedding Soup was a common dish at Italian weddings – please tell me I’m not the only one. From the mouth of the wizard, aka Wikipedia:
The term “wedding soup” is a mistranslation of the Italian language phrase “minestra maritata (“married soup”),” which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together.
It’s true that this soup is worthy of a wedding celebration, maybe that’s why I never questioned the name. Or maybe it’s because making it is so predictable, you know, like weddings.
I can hear you laughing.
Unlike soup, the best part of weddings are the things that go wrong. Our nuptial day was full of mishaps: our alter flowers were never delivered, my hair stylist forgot about me and, not to be outdone, I hadn’t practiced ‘tossing’ my bouquet and instead launched it fly-ball style. But Keith and I have been happily married for more than 20 years and these are the things that make me smile; the things that went as planned are long forgotten.
Enough about weddings, this soup is about marrying flavors not people. It’s about marrying tender greens and buttery meatballs in a savory broth. Like all good marriages, each element has a vital role, accentuating the whole without being overpowering. My version has meatballs that are a blend of beef and pork (reminiscent of the mixture in my Albondigas Soup), a generous amount of broccoli rabe, tender leeks and plenty of grated Pecorino.
If you search the web, you’ll find that this is a soup with many variations, like this one from my friend Mila with loads of veggies and chicken meatballs, or this one with a new-to-me tiny pasta, ‘acini di pepe’. So feel free to improvise, swapping in your favorite greens and/or trying different meat combinations to make it your own.
Easy Italian Wedding Soup
For the Meatballs
- 1/4 cup onion minced
- 1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the Soup:
- 2 slices bacon cubed
- 2 leeks white and light green parts, halved and thinly sliced into half circles
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 pound broccoli rabe, curly endive or escarole cleaned and coarsely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese for topping soup
To make the meatballs:
In a large bowl stir together the first 7 ingredients (onion through Pecorino). Add beef, pork and several grinds of black pepper; stir until just combined or combine with your hands. (Don't overwork this mixture or your meatballs will be tough.)
With a small scoop or teaspoon, scoop out about 1 1/2 teaspoons of meat mixture and place on a baking sheet; repeat with remaining mixture. Quickly roll each portion between your palms to form a meatball.
To make the soup:
Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add bacon; cook and stir until fat has rendered and bacon is nearly crisp. Add leeks; cook and stir until tender, about 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to boil.
Add meatballs and broccoli rabe or other green to boiling broth; reduce heat and simmer until meatballs are cooked through and greens are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with a generous pinch of Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.