When I first heard the term Italian Wedding Soup, I assumed that it would be a big production. In my head, the soup would be simmered over the course of 3 days in a pot large enough to serve an army (or 300+ very hungry wedding guests). Luckily, that was just my over-active imagination talking because an Italian Wedding Soup couldn’t be easier to make. It’s also the perfect meal for these blustery rainy days. Yes, the rain and howling winds are back with a vengeance it seems but this soup is the perfect cure-all.
Wikipedia describes an italian wedding soup as a dish containing green vegetables and meat and so that’s what I did. I had some local organic ground beef and figured I’d spice it up with the addition of fennel along with all the usual suspects. And fennel was the perfect spice here as it gave these meatballs a unique twist. The rest of the soup came together quickly: kale, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and chicken stock. I used bowtie-shaped pasta, but orzo would be perfect as would any short pasta like macaroni. I should also note, if you have any Parmesan rinds laying about, add them to this soup for extra super flavour – just remember to remove them before serving or someone will end up with a mouthful of chewy cheese (not a bad thing, really).
If you want to keep things vegetarian/vegan, sub in vegetable stock and use your favorite veggie sausage cut into discs instead. Just remember to add the sausage near the end, just before the pasta is finished cooking as you just need to heat the sausage not cook it.
italian wedding soup
1 lb lean ground beef (local & organic)
1 T fennel seeds, crushed
1 t Old Bay seasoning
1/4 cayenne pepper
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1 t worchestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 c bread crumbs
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 t dried chili flakes
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper
1 bunch kale, cut into 1 inch ribbons (tough ribs removed) & cut crosswise
6 c chicken stock
Parmesan rinds (optional)
1 c short or small pasta
Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, mix together with your hands the meatball ingredients. If you find the mixture too sticky, add in more bread crumbs. Roll about a tablespoon of the mixture into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions and garlic until soft & fragrant. Stir in the celery, carrots and chili flakes along with a small pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Let the mixture sweat for a few minutes and then add in the kale, stirring until it gets wilty. Remove meatballs from the oven and add to the pot. Pour in chicken stock and Parmesan rinds (if using) and bring to a boil. Add in the pasta and cook until the pasta is tender. I always throw in a few squirts of hot sauce into the pot, but that’s just me. If your pot needs more liquid, add in more stock or water and adjust seasonings before serving.
I love soup and I love meatballs so why have I never put the two together? October has taken a warm turn here in NYC, but I am sure the chilly weather will be back soon–now i have the perfect thing to make.
I love that this recipe has fennel in it! I recently used fennel in cooking for the first time, and I love it!
Soup like this is always perfect during weather like this! bah! Love that you used fennel seeds…possibly my fave seasoning ever!
Ah, a meal in a bowl! I love the idea of adding fennel into the mix. I bet it’s great together with the sausage. We’re having an odd warm spell (it was in the 70s today!) in these parts, but I’m going to tuck this recipe for when, inevitably, the autumn chill returns.
One of my favorite soups!
My grandma used to make a kick-ass Italian wedding soup but no one thought to ask her for the recipe before she became too ridden with dementia to remember it. Sigh. I’m going to have to try a gazillion versions before i figure out how to recreate it. version number one. Right here.
What are meatballs without fennel seed? You’re definitely a woman after my own heart. With all this blustery weather moving through Wisconsin, it’s definitely time for soup!
This looks so hearty! D.C. is strangely warm and humid, but with all the rain we had today, soup still sounds like a fantastic idea.
Elizabeth, it will be bound to get cold outside, no doubt! So keep this recipe for when the chill returns.
Rowie, fennel is so good and it works so well in the meatballs!
Eva, I’m just starting to use fennel and I really like its flavour! I can see why it’s a favorite.
Jess, I’m jealous of your warm spell!
Thanks Liz, it’s a good one with endless variations.
Joanne, doesn’t seem like a bad way to spend the winter 😉
Indeed, lo! I love sausage with fennel so I figured this would be the next best thing.
Thanks Maddie, it’s hearty and filling and definitely warming.
A lovely soup for our crispy, nippy Toronto weather! And a perfect reason to use the Old Bay seasoning I’ve had in my cupboard for ages and never know what to add it to. Unfortunately, beef no longer makes it on my shopping list (i.e. food poisoning twice) so I think this would be great with the veggie sausage you mentioned. Thanks!
I love this soup! You’ve kicked up the spices in a way I have never tried….I always stick close to my Grandma’s version, which is also a great way to get my husband to eat some veggies…
This is much easier than I thought Italian Wedding Soup would be. How lovely and perfect for these cool/rainy days we’ve been having!
Can’t wait to try this soup this coming weekend, it looks fabulous. Thanks so much.
I made this and my husband LOVED it, he couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. I didn’t have fennel seed, but did have fresh fennel–so chopped up some of the leaves– but next time I think I would use the bulb (wasn’t too sure how it would turn out if I used it, I’m not that familiar with fennel but am trying to use it more). Thanks for an easy and delicious recipe!
Bijoux, yes, give this a try with veg sausage! I’m sure it would be great.
Hooray for getting husbands to eat vegetables, Kitty. Good job.
Kate, it is so easy – surprisingly so. Perfect for this fall weather for sure.
Chris, thanks so much for commenting! I think fennel would be great chopped up into the soup – the bulb in lieu of celery would be awesome. Some fronds floating around wouldn’t be out of place either.
Oh baby. Italian wedding soup was such a special treat when I was a tot. I love it and have never thought to make it as an adult. Your version sounds delicious and it’s on my cooking to-do list!
Thanks Bambinosteps! Give it another look, it’s still as delicious 🙂
hi, i’ve been so busy with studying and life in general that i’ve devoted less and less time to cooking. stumbling across your blog has reinvigorated my interest in trying new recipes, i look forward to trying some out =)
The meatballs are amazing! My one recommendation was that the soup was really way too spicy with the cayenne and chili flakes – I made it again without the cayenne and it was perfect – thanks for sharing this, I now make all my meatballs with fennel seed!
Thanks so much lyla, I love hearing that! Thank you 🙂
Michelle, glad you enjoyed the meatballs. Sorry about the spice, I’m a bit of a spice addict.
i just made this last night and it was super delicious! i made it veggie and used field roast italian sausages instead of the meatballs, which was a great choice (they, too, are filled with fennel seeds and lots of spiciness). thanks so much for this yummy recipe!
Yay, glad you enjoyed this ara jane!
It’s FREEZING in Vancouver (As you know) so I decided to make this dish tonight….I’m going to use fennel pollen instead of crushed seeds….I’m excited to see how it turns out! 🙂
Rob, I hope you love it (and I’ve never tried fennel pollen before, sounds good!)
It WAS good. I received praise from all who ate it, so thanks for making me look good!
You can buy the fennel pollen on Granville island at the South Seas Trading Company shop.
i’m obsessed with this soup. i’ve made it at least 4 times since you posted it and it amazes me with how simply delicious it is every time. i make it with lamb meatballs, no pasta, and parsnips instead of the celery. awesome. thanks for the great recipe that has become a part of our regular rotation.
I realize it’s May, but it was raining terribly here in Dallas so I made this.
TERRIFIC! My wife walked into our place with a smile because of the aroma.
I’m looking forward to making this more often after we move to PDX this summer.
Jacob, a true wet coast meal! Enjoy PDX (one of my favorite cities) and good luck with the move!