Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs

4.90 from 67 votes
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A large bowl of Italian wedding soup is a flavorful marriage of ingredients. Mini turkey meatballs are broiled until golden brown and then simmered with vegetables. This recipe features cheese-filled tortellini, but you can always go the classic route and use acini de pepe pasta.

Italian wedding soup made with turkey meatballs.

Italian wedding soup is affectionately called minestra maritata or “married soup.” It begins with a savory chicken stock base followed by add-ins like vegetables, meat, pasta, or legumes. The recipe is customizable to your liking and tastes nothing like the salty, canned, store-bought version.

For a gourmet twist, homemade turkey meatballs are broiled to add texture and flavor. The smaller-sized portions perfectly nestle into the soup spoon. Instead of using the traditional tiny round and hollow acini de pepe pasta, I use tortellini to make the meal heartier.

Ground turkey meatballs on a foil-lined sheet pan.

How to make Italian wedding soup

  • Combine ground turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, onion, and herbs.
  • Roll ground turkey mixture into meatballs.
  • Broil until lightly browned.
  • In a large pot, saute garlic, onion, carrots, and celery in olive oil.
  • Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  • Add meatballs and boil until fully cooked.
  • Reduce to medium-high heat and cook the pasta.
  • Add spinach and cook until wilted.
  • Season with grated parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Making tender turkey meatballs

Ground turkey is lean with very little fat. To ensure that the meat stays tender instead of dried out, use the correct ratio of meat to breadcrumbs and eggs. I find that a ratio of 1 pound of meat to ½ cup of breadcrumbs and 1 large egg gives tender meatballs.

I use a similar ingredient ratio for my classic Italian meatball recipe. Ground chicken, beef, or pork can also be substituted for turkey.

Italian wedding soup cooking in a large pot.

Enhancing the turkey flavor

Turkey can taste bland, so I like to add minced onions, garlic, aged parmesan cheese, oregano, and parsley to enhance the flavor. Broiling or pan-frying the meatballs before simmering them in the soup adds surface texture and flavor from the browning. As the meatballs cook in the soup, they will slightly soften and infuse flavor from the broth.

The soup base

A simple combination of sauteed carrots, onions, and celery adds healthy vegetables and subtly sweet flavors to the soup base. I like to use chicken stock to give more depth to the dish. However, clear chicken broth can also be substituted. Fresh spinach is also added at the end of cooking to wilt the greens. Escarole, cabbage, or kale are tasty alternatives.

Looking down on a table with two big bowls of Italian wedding soup.

Pasta selection

You can use any pasta for this soup. However, smaller noodles are typically added, like pepe pasta (acini de pepe) or ditalini. For this recipe, I selected tortellini, it’s a ring-shaped pasta stuffed with cheese, and it makes for a heartier meal.

  • Greens: Escarole, chopped cabbage, kale, or Swiss chard.
  • Meat: Ground beef, chicken, veal, or pork. Add sweet or spicy sausage.
  • Vegetables: Sliced mushrooms, green beans, broccoli florets, bell pepper, or corn.
  • Legumes: Red kidney beans, cannelloni, white beans, or lentils.
  • Herbs and Spices: Add red pepper flakes for heat, thyme, or rosemary.

Storing and freezing

Cool any leftover soup to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container. Soup can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or individual servings can be frozen for up to 1 month. When ready to eat, defrost and reheat until the meatballs are warmed.

More soup recipes

Browned turkey meatballs and cheese-filled tortellini pasta in a bowl of soup.

Recipe Science

The key to tender meat

The ground turkey meat stays tender because the proteins get coated in a starchy paste that sets into a gel when cooked. The combination of bread and liquid from the eggs create a panade that helps keep the moisture in the meatballs and their shape intact.

Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs

A comforting Italian wedding soup recipe! A flavorful marriage of healthy ingredients like tender turkey meatballs, spinach, carrots, and tortellini pasta.
4.90 from 67 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients 
 

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup yellow onion, minced
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup yellow onion, minced
  • 1 cup carrots, ¼" dice
  • ¾ cup celery, ¼" dice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 8 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • 8 ounces cheese tortellini
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • black pepper, as needed for seasoning

Instructions 

  • Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the center position and preheat to broil. Line a large sheet pan with foil and grease with olive oil. Set aside.
  • Make the Meatball Mixture – In a medium bowl combine ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, onion, parsley, oregano, garlic, black pepper, and salt.
  • Form the Balls – Roll the mixture into 2 tablespoon-sized balls (about 1 ¼-inch in diameter). This recipe makes about 20 to 22 meatballs. Evenly place meatballs onto the greased sheet pan.
  • Cook the Meatballs – Broil for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • Saute the Vegetables – Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the Meatballs – Add ½ teaspoon salt, stir, and cook another 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the meatballs and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Cook the Pasta – Reduce heat to medium-high and add pasta. Cook for 7 minutes or according to the manufacturer's instructions. Turn off the heat. Add the spinach and stir into the soup until wilted, about 1 minute. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
  • To Serve – Garnish with grated parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper.

Equipment

Notes

  • Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Portion out the soup and freeze it for up to 1 month. Defrost before using. 
  • Reheating: Warm on the stovetop over medium heat until the ingredients are hot. 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 448kcal (22%)Carbohydrates 41g (14%)Protein 42g (84%)Fat 13g (20%)Saturated Fat 4g (20%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 123mg (41%)Sodium 1197mg (50%)Potassium 371mg (11%)Fiber 5g (20%)Sugar 6g (7%)Vitamin A 8350IU (167%)Vitamin C 19mg (23%)Calcium 260mg (26%)Iron 3.8mg (21%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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Recipe Rating




46 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Maria T. says

    Made this for dinner last night. It was perfect for an atmospheric river night. The meatballs were very easy to make as was the soup itself. It comes together fast. The finished product was flavorful, filling and felt like a very healthy meal, especially with the turkey meatballs. Husband had two big helpings. It’s pretty much a complete meal with all the veggies. All we added was some warmed sourdough. Sometimes I want a lighter soup = not creamy. I can see making just the meatballs for something else. There are leftovers so we’ll have the soup in another day or two. I might add a little something something to change it up a little, or not. I will definitely make this again.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback, Maria! The meatballs are versatile to use in other recipes or paired with other pasta like tortellini. So good! The sourdough bread sounds incredible with the soup!

  2. Carol Lowery says

    I made this soup for a party we were having. It was BIG hit. Everyone loved it. Very easy to make. I made the meatballs exactly as the recipe instructed the day before and they turned out perfectly tender. Will be making this again very soon

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, you can add in frozen spinach at the end of cooking to warm. I would add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of frozen spinach.

  3. Allana says

    Made a “version” of this tonight; meatballs by the recipe and soup sort of “by what was in the fridge”. Awesome flavor in the meatballs, loved the quick broil method. I will definitely make this again 🙂

  4. Judy says

    Oh Jessica, what a lovely recipe. I made this last night. The flavors are over the top goodness. Really it is now my favorite soup and certainly the best ever produced in my kitchen. When my husband took his first bite he almost swooned and exclaimed loudly how good it is! My only change to the recipe was I replaced oregano with thyme as I am not an oregano fan. I had never heard of acini de pepe before so looked that up and will try it with that in the future. This time though I used the cheese tortellini. The recipe is not labor intensive and was a joy to make. Thank you for another recipe that I will use again and again.

  5. Heidi Panico says

    I usually tweak recipes a little to suit my taste. I made this exactly as called for and it was amazing.

  6. Michelle says

    I made this tonight – doubled the recipe for 4 people and had 8 meatballs left over. It was DELICIOUS, and the entire family enjoyed and said it’s a “keeper!” I added lemon juice to the recipe and used shelled past instead.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback and substitutes! Thrilled to hear that your family enjoyed the recipe.

  7. Anne says

    Hi Jessica! I came across your pins on Pinterest and just wanted to let you know I made the quinoa salmon salad and today I made your italian wedding soup. My family loved them both and I will be adding them to my favorite recipes! Thank you!

  8. Rachel says

    I made your Italian Wedding Soup and it was delicious! I have always wanted to make this type of soup, but was kind of intimidated to try. My Italian husband loved it, as did my kids. It was a weeknight so to keep it a little lighter, instead of the cheese tortellini, I used acini de pepe. I will definitely try using the tortellini when we want a hardier meal. Thank you!

  9. belinda donner says

    my family is obsessed with this Italian Wedding soup. I should have made a double batch because they all wanted seconds. Thank you

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