What The 'Wedding' In Italian Wedding Soup Actually Refers To

We often speak of love being in the air ... but love in the broth? Now that's one unique type of soup! Italian wedding soup consists of broth, meat, and vegetables — sometimes pasta, as well, per Nonna Box. Its specific ingredients can run the gamut: cabbage, chard, chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, pork, spinach, and more.

Some regional Italian variations even include beef shank and hen (via Food Republic). According to Streets of New York, piggy meatballs (or sausages) are occasionally replaced with chicken. These days, Italian wedding soup is often Americanized, so the meaty portions are smaller, pasta like couscous is added, and veggies such as sweet red pepper and tomatoes are mixed in. A lot of this has to do with the types of veggies that are common in the U.S. and the increasing availability of pasta.

Savory and rustic, Italian wedding soup is certainly lovable. Yet, regardless of what the name implies, it's not traditionally served at Italian weddings (despite the rumor that it's an aphrodisiac for newlyweds). Many people eat it during the winter or early springtime, but wedding season is irrelevant here.

It refers to the wedded broths

Minestra maritata, the Italian name for this wedding soup, more directly translates to 'wedded broths,' per Food Republic. The marriage of its meats and veggies inside of its broth is the only matrimony relevant in this context. Not only is there confusion surrounding the name, but the dish's origin as well. 

The common consensus is that Italian wedding soup began as a "peasant" dish (easy, cheap food historically consumed by the masses), but Nonna Box notes that some folks assert it originated in Spain, not Italy. Regardless of its hazy origins, we know that the soup has an extensive background in southern Italy. Although it's not featured in weddings, it does have ceremonial roots. Pigs are slaughtered annually in the Alto Casertano region come wintertime, and their bones are boiled with bitter greens and leftover prosciutto from the preceding year. In Naples, the wedding soup is dished out during the Feast of Santo Stefano on December 26 due to its supposed healing capabilities.

It's beyond us to claim it truly has such powers, but Italian wedding soup can certainly fill an empty stomach. As Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis once put it, "Italian wedding soup is a traditional dish that's so good, there's no need to save it for special occasions." Still, feel free to include it in your big day if that's what your heart truly desires.