Italian Wedding Soup with Spinach Meatballs. Little bite-size meatballs loaded with spinach, chopped ground beef, eggs, and Parmesan cheese, then baked until fully cooked before dropping them into a simmered broth with cheese tortellini and fresh baby spinach. This recipe is a spin on the classic “Italian Wedding Soup” as we know it.
So I took our mother’s gorgeous recipe for the Italian Wedding Soup and made a few minor changes to it, making it easier just by eliminating a few steps in the cooking process.
The outcome turned out really terrific!
My Italian wedding soup with spinach meatballs is big on flavor and very satisfying. It makes the perfect meal all alone.
Growing up, our mom always made this soup with escarole and her famous mini meatballs (which is a similar recipe to Mom’s Sunday Meatballs) and served it as our first course on the holidays.
She would make the soup the day before and reheat it before serving. It was a way for our mom to organize and plan ahead for her 5-course meal for that holiday.
Still, today, her recipe for Italian wedding soup with meatballs is still amazingly light and very tasty, leaving plenty of room for what was to come.
Mom’s recipe for Italian wedding soup with meatballs is amazing but also time-consuming. She always made homemade chicken broth, 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. Her recipe is delicious – but, definitely time-consuming.
So How Did This Soup Get Its Name?
Italian Wedding 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 to serve during the late ’60s and ’70s. That’s how the name “Italian Wedding Soup” came about.
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, such as a soup served as the first course, back in the day.
My version of the Italian wedding soup with spinach meatballs is easier.
First, I get started on making the meatballs, adding in some chopped spinach to the mixture for some added healthy greens in there. Then baked them.
And, the extra spinach is to toss into the soup. The good news is fresh baby spinach doesn’t require much cooking, like escarole.
With this recipe, the prep work is mostly in making these bite-size spinach meatballs, then baking them for about 10 to 15 minutes.
How do I know if the meatballs have enough flavor before baking them?
Two ways to finding out. One way is you can fry a few 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, even though it requires more work and time, but they turn out better when they’re fried! Trust me on this one.
But for this recipe, I baked them.
Once you get the soup started, and the meatballs are fully baked, the rest is easy.
Spinach meatballs are added into the soup at the end of the cooking time, just before serving.
Italian Wedding Soup with Spinach Meatballs from start to finish takes about 30 minutes!
Hey, by the way, 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.
Directions to Making Mini Meatballs:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a large cooking sheet or Pyrex dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. 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.
3. Mix the meat mixture until it’s well combined. Using a small espresso spoon to scoop up a small amount and place it into the palm of your hand. Shape into a small ball, smaller than a quarter size.
4. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. They can be placed close together, but not touching.
5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until they are light brown and fully cooked. Then transfer into the soup!
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
For Spinach Meatballs
- 1 (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, excess water squeezed out
- 1/2 pound chopped ground beef
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 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