Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs

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A big bowl of Italian wedding soup is a flavorful marriage of ingredients. Mini turkey meatballs are broiled until golden brown, 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 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 thankfully 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, breadcrumbs, 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 right ratio of meat-to-breadcrumbs and eggs. I find that a ratio of 1 pound meat to a 1/2 cup 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 the turkey.

Italian wedding soup cooking in a dutch oven

Enhancing the turkey flavor

Turkey can taste bland, so I like to add-in minced onions, garlic, aged parmesan cheese, oregano, and parsley to enhance the flavor. Broiling or pan-frying the meatballs before simmering 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 add 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 gig bowls of Italian wedding soup

Pasta selection

You can use any type of 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.

Popular soup add-ins and substitutions

  • 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 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 through.

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

More soup recipes

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The key to tender meat

The reason the ground turkey meat stays tender is 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 creates a panade that helps keep the moisture in the meatballs and their shape intact.

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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.
Pin Print Review
4.5 from 18 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
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-inch dice
  • ¾ cup celery, ¼-inch 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 

Meatballs

  • Set oven rack to the center position and preheat to broil.
  • Line a large sheet pan with foil and grease with olive oil. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl combine ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, onion, parsley, oregano, garlic, black pepper, and salt.
  • Roll turkey meatball mixture into 2 tablespoon-sized balls (about 1 ¼-inch in diameter). Recipe makes about 20 to 22 meatballs.
  • Evenly place meatballs onto the greased sheet pan.
  • Broil meatballs for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Soup

  • Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot.
  • Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Saute until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • 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 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium-high and add pasta. Cook for 7 minutes or according to manufacturer's instructions. Turn off heat.
  • Add the spinach and stir into the soup until wilted, about 1 minute. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
  • Serve soup topped with grated parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.

Equipment

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Nutrition Facts
Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 448 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 123mg41%
Sodium 1197mg50%
Potassium 371mg11%
Carbohydrates 41g14%
Fiber 5g20%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 42g84%
Vitamin A 8350IU167%
Vitamin C 19mg23%
Calcium 260mg26%
Iron 3.8mg21%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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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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30 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Patricia says

    I don’t like using my oven’s broiler. Could the meatballs be baked instead? How much time would be needed to bake the meatballs. Thanks!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

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