Italian Wedding Soup with Spinach Meatballs ~ Little bite-size meatballs loaded with spinach, meat, eggs, and Parmesan cheese, then baked before dropping them into a simmered broth with cheese tortellini and fresh baby spinach for more greens is known as the classic “Italian Wedding Soup” as we know it.
So I took my mother’s gorgeous recipe for the Italian Wedding Soup and made a few minor changes to it, making it easier to make by eliminating a few steps in the cooking process. The outcome was really terrific, big on flavor, and very satisfying.
Growing up, our mom always made this soup with escarole and her famous mini meatballs (which is a similar recipe as her Sunday meatballs) and served it as our first course on the holidays for several reasons. One reason, the soup can be prepared the day before and reheated before serving. It was a way for our mom to organize and plan ahead in order for her to prepare her 5 course meal for the holiday.
Her Italian wedding soup was always very light and very tasty, leaving plenty of room for what was to come. Sometimes she would even make it with cheese tortellini, as I did here.
Secondly, this soup, for as long as we could remember while growing up was always served as the first course at EVERY Italian wedding we have ever attended!! Honest! It was a common dish during the late 60’s and 70’s. That’s how the name “Italian Wedding Soup” came about. I swear!
Every caterer up and down the east coast, especially among the Italian-American neighborhoods, all served this soup at the FIRST course at everyone’s wedding. It was part of our culture to have a light dish, a soup, as the appetizer back in the day.
This was the other reason our mom served it as the first course on holidays, especially on Thanksgiving.
Normally, mom makes her broth homemade, simmering water with a whole chicken and veggies for over 2 hours. Then she cooks the escarole separately, strains the soup and adds the escarole and meatballs into this delicious clear broth. It’s very time consuming. Maybe if I am snowed in for the day- I would make it homemade.
My version of the Italian Wedding Soup is easier.
First, I get started with the meatballs, adding in some chopped spinach to the mixture for some added healthy greens in there, and then again in the soup simply because fresh baby spinach doesn’t require much cooking, like escarole.
The prep work is mostly in the spinach meatballs, making then into bite-size and then baking them until they are fully cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes.
How do I know if the meatballs have enough flavor before baking them?
Two ways. You can fry a few in a small frying pan with one tablespoon of vegetable oil, and taste them. Or, bake a few and taste them that way. Then adjust the seasonings and finish making the mini meatballs.
Honestly, I prefer them fried, but it requires more work and time. But they are delicious-fried! These mini meatballs fried are so good, we can eat them alone – without the soup!
Next, I use organic chicken stock as the base for my broth. Cheese tortellini cook up quickly, about 5 minutes or less, which is the main reason why we love adding them to soups; and they add so much flavor. Finally, the spinach meatballs are added into the soup at the end, just before serving. Easy and delicious!
Italian Wedding Soup with Spinach Meatballs from start to finish takes about 30 minutes! Needless to say, what’s for dinner tonight?
You can follow along on how to make the mini meatballs, or jump to the bottom of this post for our full recipe card.
Easy Directions to making Mini Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a large cooking sheet or Pyrex dish with cooking spray. Set aside. In a food processor, or if mixing by hand, in a medium size mixing bowl. Add chop meat, breadcrumbs, chopped spinach, garlic powder, salt eggs, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses.
Mix the meat mixture until it’s well combined. Using a small espresso spoon to scoop up a small amount and place into the palm of your hand. Shape into a small ball, smaller than a quarter size.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. They can be placed close together, but not touching.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until they are light brown and fully cooked.
- 1 (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, excess water squeezed out
- ½ pound chopped ground beef
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 Tbsp. grated Pecorino cheese
- olive oil cooking spray
- 32 ounce chicken stock
- 4 cups water
- dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 pound cheese tortellini
- 4 to 5 cups fresh baby spinach
- fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a large cooking sheet or Pyrex dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a food processor, or if mixing by hand, in a medium size mixing bowl.
- Add chop meat, breadcrumbs, chopped spinach, garlic powder, salt eggs, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses.
- Mix the meat mixture until it's well combined. Using a small espresso spoon to scoop up a small amount and place into the palm of your hand. Shape into a small ball, smaller than a quarter size.
- Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. They can be placed close together, but not touching.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until they are light brown and fully cooked.
- Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, bring broth and water to a boil. Add cayenne pepper and tortellinis. Cook the tortellini according to the directions of the package, but undercook them 1 minute. Stir in the fresh spinach. Finally, add in the already baked mini spinach meatballs.
- Taste the broth, and season with salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
- Ladle into individual soup bowls and serve. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese at the table. Stores leftovers in the refrigerator up to 3 days, or freezer for a future weekday meal.
- Yields: 2 quarts, and about 65 mini spinach meatballs