Italian wedding soup is about delicious ingredients marrying their flavors together to create a comforting meal in a bowl. Learn how to make it quickly and easily, thanks to a clever time-saving tip!
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The name of Italian wedding soup has always intrigued me. I have to admit that I long assumed it was a soup traditionally served at weddings in Italy. I’m sure I’m not the only one! But the real origins of Italian wedding soup have nothing to do with weddings. The origin of this quirky name comes from the Italian, minestra maritata. “Minestra” means soup, and “maritata” means “wedded.” According to Italy-based food writer Katie Parla, the combination of the two words “refers to the dish’s nuanced flavors, betrothed as they are blended and simmered, achieving a brothy, meaty, vegetal polygamy.”
Traditionally pork-centric, Italian wedding soup has evolved over time, especially after the recipe crossed the ocean along with Italian families that migrated to the United States. Some of the rituals surrounding the soup could not be reproduced in America, and some of the ingredients couldn’t be found either, so the recipe for Italian wedding soup was adapted to be made with what was readily available.
Although divorced from its origins, modern Italian wedding soup is still a supremely satisfying dish. While many Italian families consider this soup to be a Christmas and Easter dish, I just can’t resist having it year-round. The combination of tiny meatballs, hearty greens, pasta, and Parmigiano-infused broth produces a super nutritious, flavor-packed dish that everyone loves.
My version of Italian wedding soup is quick and easy to make, thanks to a clever trick. Instead of mixing several ingredients to create meatballs from scratch, I use the meat of Italian sausages, which I quickly pinch and roll into meatballs. This makes preparing this easy Italian wedding soup a snap—and because the recipe only requires a handful of staple ingredients, you can make it anytime a craving arises. You can also easily double or triple the recipe quantities to produce a big batch and freeze it for later enjoyment.
In other words, nothing about Italian wedding soup is as fussy as a wedding would be. So go ahead and treat yourself: I guarantee you’ll want to be forever faithful to this lovely, elegant dish.
Helpful Tips for Making Italian Wedding Soup
Save those pieces of Parmigiano rind: If you buy wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano, never throw away the rinds! Once you’ve used all the cheese, collect the rinds in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container in the freezer to use later. A single piece of rind adds a ton of flavor and depth to Italian wedding soup. It’s a great way to upgrade store-bought chicken or vegetable broth!
Switch up those greens: I use readily available kale in my Italian wedding soup, but it is traditionally made with escarole. If you can find escarole, by all means, use it in this soup! You could substitute any other bitter green, such as Swiss chard, or use spinach instead.
Make Italian Wedding Soup even more quickly: I like to sauté the sausage meatballs in a skillet before I add them to the soup to give them a bit of color and render some of the extra fat contained in the sausage meat, but you could also add the raw sausage meatballs straight into the simmering broth. The cooking time is plenty to safely cook through the tiny meatballs.
Take the sausage meat out of the casings. (Discard the casings.) Pinch off little sections of meat and roll them into mini meatballs.
Place a large non-stick skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meatballs and sauté until browned all over, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside. Alternatively, you can skip this step and add the raw meatballs straight into the broth as soon as it simmers and cook the soup for the full 15 minutes required by the recipe.
In a large pot set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and stir for 1 minute. Add the chopped kale and stir, making sure the garlic and crushed red pepper get mixed into the kale, until the kale loses most of its volume, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, dry pasta, and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, then simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the sauteed sausage meatballs, then keep cooking for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
SERVING: Serve the Italian wedding soup sprinkled with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
STORAGE: Fish out the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind out of the soup. Divide the Italian wedding soup between airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Italian wedding soup is traditionally made with escarole. If you’re lucky enough to find it, make sure to use it in this recipe! Or substitute readily available kale, Swiss chard, or spinach.
If you buy wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano, never throw away the rinds! Once you’ve used all the cheese, collect the rinds in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container in the freezer to use later. A single piece of rind adds a ton of flavor and depth to Italian wedding soup. If you don’t have saved rinds but have a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand, you can simply cut off the rind to add it to the soup. If you don’t have either, you can simply omit it from the recipe.
Did you make this?
Tell me how you liked it! Leave a comment or take a picture and tag it with @foodnouveau on Instagram.
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