This Italian wedding soup recipe makes the enormously popular Italian American meatball soup with which Americans have fallen in love. Never served at weddings and completely divorced from the original Central and Southern Italian soup from which it was born, minestra maritata, a wild foraged greens and porky broth, it’s nevertheless incredibly delicious.
If, like me, you can’t get enough of those comforting soups that are so hearty that they’re almost like stews, and, like me, you won’t confine them to the colder months, but will turn up the air conditioning just so you can eat them year-round, then this Italian wedding soup recipe soup is for you.
If you cooked our classic ribollita soup recipe for the Tuscan bean, kale and bread broth, and you enjoyed that – or if you’ve made some of our other soups that we probably should have called stews, such as my Russian chicken, barley and pickle soup or this cabbage roll soup that probably had baboushka rolling in her grave – then I guarantee you’re going to love this Italian wedding soup recipe.
But before I tell you all about this Italian wedding soup recipe, I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve used and like our recipes, please consider supporting Grantourismo by supporting our original, epic, first-of-its-kind Cambodian culinary history and cookbook on Patreon for as little as US$5 a month. Or, you could also buy us a coffee. Although we’ll use our coffee money to buy cooking ingredients for recipe testing instead.
You can also support our work by using links on the site to book accommodation, rent a car or hire a motorhome or campervan, purchase travel insurance, or book a tour on Klook or Get Your Guide; shopping our Grantourismo online store (we have fun gifts for foodies designed with Terence’s images); or buying something on Amazon, such as these award-winning cookbooks, cookbooks by Australian chefs, classic cookbooks for serious cooks, cookbooks for culinary travellers, travel books to inspire wanderlust, and gifts for Asian food lovers. Now let me tell you more about this Italian wedding soup recipe.
Italian Wedding Soup Recipe for the Much-Loved Italian American Meatball Soup
The first thing that I need to tell you about this Italian wedding soup recipe – are you sitting down? – is that this is not a traditional Italian wedding soup. (Sorry!) In Italy, they don’t serve this soup at weddings, they’ve never served this soup at weddings, and most Italians are completely baffled as to how this Italian wedding soup recipe became so extraordinarily popular.
That doesn’t make this hearty broth any less delicious – or heaven forbid, any less ‘authentic‘. So don’t even think about not cooking this Italian wedding soup recipe. I just felt it was important that you knew the truth, particularly if you planned cooking it up for your Italian friends. Make it and be proud.
This may be one of those Italian diaspora dishes that has evolved so much that even Italians don’t recognise it, but it’s still authentic to Italian-Americans, and to Italian-Australians and so on, although Australians don’t seem to have become as smitten with this hearty soup as Americans have. Maybe we can change that.
As I know from many years researching Cambodia’s culinary history and comparing Cambodian dishes here in Cambodia with those in the Cambodian diaspora, it’s not unusual for some things to get lost in translation after a generation or two.
And that appears to be the case with this Italian wedding soup recipe, which started life in Southern Italy as minestra maritata, a rustic soup of cucina povera, the peasant cooking of the Italian countryside, which is based on a no-waste philosophy.
The main ingredients of minestra maritata are wild foraged greens and porky bits – everything from pig’s ears to snout and offal – which Southern Italians felt that after being slow-cooked were a ‘marriage’ of flavours, hence the ‘maritata’ that somehow translated to ‘wedding’ soup.
The Southern Italian recipes – there are many; every village and home seems to have their own! – don’t include ingredients like carrots, and not all include the tiny pastas that distinguished the Italian-American diaspora’s Italian wedding soup.
But Italian-American cooking, or Italian-Australian cooking, is no less authentic than Italian cooking, and that’s a subject I’m going to return to in another post. For now, just a few tips to making this incredibly delicious Italian wedding soup.
Tips to Making this Italian Wedding Soup Recipe for the Italian American Meatball Soup
I only have a few quick tips to making this heavenly Italian wedding soup recipe as there’s lots of detail below and it’s really very straightforward.
I cook this soup in Terence’s Dutch oven, in which he bakes his sourdough. If you’ve not bought a Dutch oven yet, do it now. We use it for so many dishes – here are just some of our favourite Dutch oven recipes; a Le Creuset Dutch oven is perhaps the most-coveted but we have the more affordable Lodge Dutch oven – however, it’s fantastic for soups and stews.
While you can make this Italian wedding soup recipe in the time I’ve suggested below, like a lot of soups and a lot of Italian soups, slow-cooking over low heat will result in a soup with more depth of flavour, so I’d be scheduling this for a weekend afternoon when you’re planning on being at home.
Italian-American recipes recommend all types of spinach so I’ve left it wide open. In Italy they use a variety of wild foraged greens that you’ll struggle to source. I use whatever type of spinach I can get my hand on, from English spinach to the myriad Chinese spinach varieties we have access to here in Cambodia, and they’re all delicious.
Do cook the pasta separately and add it right at the end, just before serving. Don’t even think about cooking it in the Dutch Oven as I’ve seen a lot of recipes recommend – the heat is way too hot and the pasta will stick to the sides and bottom of the Dutch Oven.
Italian Wedding Soup Recipe for the Italian American Meatball Soup
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 50 g onion - finely diced
- 300 g ground pork
- 300 g ground beef
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp fine black pepper
- ¾ tsp garlic powder
- 1 egg - whisked
- 50 g white bread - torn into pieces
- 50 g Parmigiano Reggiano - or Pecorino Romano, grated
- 15 g flat leaf parsley - or celery leaves, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion - diced
- 3 garlic cloves - finely chopped
- 1 large carrot - diced
- 2 celery sticks - diced
- 1 litres pork or vegetable stock - or bouillon
- 2 litre water - or as needed
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 bunch spinach - or wild greens, roughly chopped
- 1 cup acini de pepe - stelline or orzo, tiny Italian pasta, cooked until al dente
- Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano - or Pecorino Romano, grated
- In a medium sized pan, heat the olive oil and fry the finely diced onion until soft, fragrant and transparent, then transfer to a dish to cool to room temperature.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground pork and ground beef, salt, fine black pepper, garlic powder, whisked egg, torn pieces of bread, grated cheese, and finely chopped flat leaf parsley or celery leaves, then add the onion and combine well.
- Scoop out 1½ teaspoons of the meatball mixture and weigh it on digital kitchen scales – you’ll want 18-20 g per meatball – then roll the mixture between two hands to shape into small meatball, place on a baking tray, and repeat until you’ve finished the mixture. It should make around 40 meatballs.
- Heat the olive oil in a round flat-bottomed wok (or deep medium-sized fry pan) over high heat, then fry the meatballs in batches, turning every minute, for four minutes, until they’re all done, then set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or soup pot, over medium-high, heat the olive oil, then fry the onion until soft, add the finely chopped garlic cloves and fry until fragrant, then add the diced carrot and celery and fry for a few minutes more. Turn down the heat if too hot, and add a little water if the garlic starts to brown.
- Add the stock or water and bouillon, salt and pepper, and increase the heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low to simmer. Add the meatballs and spinach or wild greens, and simmer until the greens are soft.
- Just before you’re ready to serve, add the cooked pasta and half the grated cheese. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with more grated cheese and salt and cracked black pepper to taste and serve with slices of sourdough.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this Italian wedding soup recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.