Rustic Italian Wedding Soup Recipe

Italian wedding soup is a dish that was originally considered peasant food, which recipe developer Michelle McGlinn explains as something intended to "use up old ingredients, and keep families full throughout the day." She also explains that the name — which in Italian is minestra maritata — has nothing to do with love and romance, but rather refers to the marriage of the meat, greens, and pasta.

McGlinn's version of the soup is one she describes as "similar to a classic Italian wedding soup," but she says it also "highlights lemon and Parmesan as star ingredients, so it is a bit brighter and richer than the usual." Even the homemade meatballs, she says, include some lemony flavor. She does say that "making the meatballs takes some time and patience," but really recommends making them from scratch, rather than substituting with the frozen kind. You can, however, swap out the spinach for kale, escarole, or another type of greens if you wish, while other types of small, chunky pasta can be used in place of the acini de pepe.

Collect the ingredients for the Italian wedding soup

Don't get scared off by the long ingredients list for this soup, since nothing on it is particularly difficult to obtain. The meatballs are made from a 50/50 mixture of ground beef and pork seasoned with rosemary, thyme, sage, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and an egg to bind everything together.

The soup itself has a chicken stock base that's flavored with more lemon and rosemary, as well as a piece of parmesan rind, and garlic sautéed in olive oil. The final ingredients that go into the soup are acini de pepe pasta, and spinach.

Cook the meatballs

Before you start making the meatballs, preheat the oven to 350 F.

Mix both types of ground meat together with the chopped rosemary, chopped thyme, chopped sage, grated Parmesan, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and egg. Mix everything together with your hands until it comes together, but don't mix it too much.

Roll the meatballs into spheres about ½-inch in diameter, then put them on 1 or 2 baking sheets. McGlinn says that there should be about 3 dozen meatballs in all. Bake the meatballs for about 10 minutes to brown them. Don't worry if they're still pink inside when you take them out of the oven. As McGlinn tells us, "Do not cook [them] all the way through" as they will finish cooking in the soup.

Make the soup base

While the meatballs are cooking, you can start the soup. Cut ½ the lemon into thin slices, then heat the olive oil in a pot over medium, and brown the lemon slices on each side. Add the minced garlic to the pan, and cook it for 1 minute, or until it smells garlicky. Pour the chicken stock into the pan, and squeeze in the juice from the remaining ½ of lemon. Add the parmesan rind and the rosemary sprigs, then bring the soup to a boil.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the soup

Once the soup is boiling, add the pasta, and the cooked meatballs. Check the box or bag the pasta came in, and make sure you cook it until it's al dente. Once the pasta is cooked, turn the heat down so the soup is just simmering, and fish out the Parmesan rind. Stir in the spinach, and cook it until it wilts. If you like, though, you can sprinkle it with extra Parmesan before you eat it.

If you don't finish all of the soup, don't worry. McGlinn says "Leftovers save great in airtight containers in the refrigerator." She does say, though, that "The pasta absorbs a lot of the initial broth," so says you'll need to add some extra water or broth when reheating it in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Rustic Italian Wedding Soup Recipe
5 from 35 ratings
This is not your mother's classic Italian wedding soup recipe, thanks to the addition of lemon juice, and this secret ingredient.
Prep Time
Cook Time
italian wedding soup in bowl
Total time: 30 minutes
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary, plus 2 sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 8 ounces acini de pepe pasta
  • 3 cups baby spinach
Optional Ingredients
  • Shaved Parmesan
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine the ground beef, ground pork, chopped rosemary, thyme, sage, Parmesan cheese, egg, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
  3. Roll the mixture into ½-inch balls, and place them on a large baking sheet. Bake the meatballs for about 10 minutes until just browned.
  4. While the meatballs cook, heat the olive oil in a pot over medium. Cut ½ the lemon into thin slices, and brown them on each side. Toss in the garlic, and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
  5. Pour the chicken stock, lemon juice for the other ½ of lemon, Parmesan rind, and sprigs of rosemary into the pan, and bring the liquid to a boil.
  6. Add the pasta and cooked meatballs, and cook the pasta until it's al dente.
  7. Lower the heat so the soup is simmering, then remove the parmesan rind. Season the soup with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
  8. Stir the spinach into the soup. Once the spinach wilts, remove the soup from the heat. Sprinkle the soup with additional Parmesan, if desired.
Calories per Serving 893
Total Fat 49.1 g
Saturated Fat 15.5 g
Trans Fat 0.7 g
Cholesterol 146.6 mg
Total Carbohydrates 64.1 g
Dietary Fiber 3.4 g
Total Sugars 9.7 g
Sodium 1,589.0 mg
Protein 46.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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