The name, Italian Wedding Soup, stems from combining of meat with pasta. Growing up, in my home, pasta was served separately from the meat dish.
This post will show you everything you need to know about how I make this soup. My secret ingredient, for the most flavorful meatballs, is fresh basil pesto. Surprised!, don’t be, when you break down the ingredients in basil pesto, you’ll find that most of those ingredients are in my meatballs anyway.
I have done variations of my Italian Wedding Soup like, instead of small pasta, I’ve used mini cheese ravioli. It’s a really delicious way to give an extra surprise to the dish.
I think whenever you’re making a recipe that calls for meatballs, it’s important that they are tender and full of flavor.
My basic recipe for meatballs is always the same, whether using ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken. The exceptions are when I make a Greek or Asian dish that calls for meatballs. That’s a story for another time.
I’m going to show you two versions. One made with a short cut pasta called Ditalini, the other I’m using mini cheese ravioli.
What’s great about making extra is, you can freeze the soup for another time. First label and date the bags. Whenever I freeze a completed soup, I let the soup come to room temperature, transfer the soup into gallon zip lock bags. Release as much of the air as possible, then close the bag. Lay the bag out onto a sheet pan in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the sheet pan and you can stack the bags of soup to utilize freezer space.
I’m making a double batch of meatballs to show both versions of my Italian Wedding Soup-Two Ways.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 to 60 minutes (per pot)
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (per pot)
Yields: 30 meatballs (15 meatballs per pot)
Yields: 4 to 6 servings per pot
Equipment: 2 (6-quart) heavy-bottom saucepots, large mixing bowl, cookie-dough scoop, 2 rimmed baking sheet pans, parchment paper, chef’s knife
Note: For one pot, use half the meatballs. After the meatballs are cooked allow half of them (15 meatballs) to come to room temperature. Place into a resealable zip-lock bag and transfer to the freezer.
Ingredients For Chicken Meatballs:
3 pounds of ground chicken
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 (7-ounce) container of store-bought fresh basil pesto (use 1/4 cup for this recipe)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
3 cloves of freshly grated garlic
2 tablespoons of Ketchup
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated (reserve the rind and 1/4 cup for serving)
2 cups of Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup of Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Note: Cut the recipe in half for one pot of soup, with the exception of the pasta. Choose which pasta you want to use. Use only 1 1/2 pounds of ground chicken for 15 meatballs.
Ingredients For Soup:
4 tablespoons olive oil (2 per pot)
2 cups of onions, diced and divided
2 cups of leafy-top carrots, diced and divided
2 cups of celery, diced (include leafy tops) and divided
4 cloves of garlic, minced and divided
2 tablespoons Kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 quarts plus 4 cups of chicken stock, unsalted and divided
2 1/2 cups of Ditalini pasta (short cut tube-shaped pasta in one pot)
1 (24-ounce) package of mini cheese ravioli ( in the other pot)
2 (10-ounce) packages of frozen spinach, thawed and divided
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper, of each pan, with a light coating of non-stick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl and add all the ingredients (except the ground chicken) for the meatballs. Once everything is in the bowl mix to combine. You want the flavorings to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, add the ground meat to the bowl. Using a fork, evenly distribute the flavorings throughout the ground chicken. It may take a few minutes but it’s so worth it for your meatballs to be light and tender.
Using a cookie-dough scoop ensures the meatballs will be the same size. Scoop the meat mixture into your hands forming a ball. Continue until all the meatball mixture is finished.
Arrange the meatballs onto two baking sheet pans with space between each one. Lightly spray the tops of the meatballs with non-stick cooking spray to ensure they will brown evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
In the meantime prep the *Mirepoix for the soup. Dice the carrots, celery, and onions. Finish by mincing the garlic. Evenly divided, transfer them to two separate plates. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Set aside.
Preheat both stockpots over medium heat. To each stockpot add olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Stir to combine. Stirring occasionally, cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
Next, add the chicken stock to each pot. If you have the cheese rind, leftover from grating the cheese, go ahead and throw that into your pot(s). Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. for 10 minutes.
At this point, the meatballs will be ready to come out of the oven. Add the meatballs to the pot(s) very carefully. Simmer over medium-low heat for another 15 minutes.
Now it’s time to add the (Ditalini, and the mini cheese ravioli) pasta. Carefully give the pasta a big stir. Cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. Once the pasta floats to the top, it’s time to add the thawed spinach. Again, carefully give the spinach a good stir to incorporate it throughout the soup. Turn the heat off, cover until you’re ready to serve. Ladle a good helping into a porclain bowl, top with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
There you have it, my Italian Wedding Soup-Two Ways.
Tip: If you’re only going to use half of the meatballs, let them come to room temperature. Next, place them in the frig for 30 minutes to chill. Label and date the ziplock freezer bag before transferring them to the bag. Release as much of the air as possible, close it up, and place it into the freezer.
*Mirepoix: The standard base for most soups consisting of celery, carrots, and onions.