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 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.
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.
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.
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.
More soup recipes
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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