Italian Wedding/Meatball Soup Recipe

The weather may be in a bit of a rollercoaster pattern with 70 degrees one day and 50 the next, but there’s no doubt soup makes a great meal either way. Meatballs added to the mix can lift a modest soup from simple to sublime—and by adding hearty meatballs, a soup can be substantial enough to serve as a main course.

Italian Wedding Soup (Minestra Maritata) doesn’t really have much to do with weddings at all, notes meat expert and cookbook author Bruce Aidells, who contributed this recipe to Real Food. It’s said to get its name from the “marriage” of the ingredients: meat, greens, and noodles or egg. Recipes vary from simple, like this one, to complex, requiring days and many ingredients to prepare. Serving this with a slice of crusty artisan bread should make for a happy union as well.

Italian Wedding Soup (Italian Meatball Soup)

Makes 6 servings

6 oz. ground beef (85% lean)
6 oz. ground pork or fresh Italian sausage, casings removed
4 oz. ground veal or turkey
1⁄2 c. onion, finely chopped
1⁄3 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 egg
1 tsp. minced garlic
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. fresh breadcrumbs (made from rustic white bread)
1⁄2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

3 quarts homemade chicken stock (or canned low-sodium chicken broth)
1 lb. escarole, coarsely chopped (spinach, chard, or curly endive are fine substitutes)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the meatballs: Combine all meatball ingredients in a bowl, mixing quickly and lightly. Be careful not to over-mix, as meatballs will become rubbery. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls (makes about 22 to 24 meatballs) and set aside.

For the soup: In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring stock to a boil. Add meatballs and escarole, reduce to a simmer, and cook until meatballs are cooked through and escarole is tender, 5 to 8 minutes.

Whisk eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Turn off heat and stir soup in a circular motion. While stirring, drizzle in egg mixture, forming thin ribbons. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls, dividing up meatballs. Garnish each serving with Parmigiano-Reggiano and parsley.

Cook’s Notes
• For a richer cheese flavor, add 2 to 4 ounces Parmesan cheese rinds to broth and simmer 10 minutes before adding meatballs and finishing soup. Remove rinds and discard.
• This soup is really dependent on a good stock or broth. Use the best you can find—or better yet, make it yourself.
• These are great all-purpose meatballs. Once shaped, pan fry or bake them and serve as is or in tomato sauce as options. Make them as little or big as you like—but never bigger than your head.
• Instead of ground pork, use your favorite fresh (raw) Italian sausage.
• While the flavor of the meatballs benefits from a combination of meats, you can make these meatballs from any combination of meat you like: all beef, all pork, all veal, all turkey, beef and pork, beef and turkey, etc. A nice blend is half beef and half Italian sausage.

Nutrition info Italian Wedding Soup (per serving): Calories 325 (148 from fat); Fat 16g (sat. 7g); Chol 151mg; Sodium 965mg; Carb 14g; Fiber 3g; Protein 32g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.