When our favorite store-bought Italian Wedding Soup was discontinued, I promised I would learn to make it myself. By combining elements of a few different recipes, I was able to create an Italian Wedding Soup recipe that we all love.
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We were standing in the soup aisle of Target, and my tear-streaked daughter (five years old at the time) was demanding to speak with a manager. I stared helplessly at the spot where “Favorite Soup,” as she referred to her favorite Italian wedding soup, used to reside…where for at least a year I’d been scooping up every box they had in stock during my bi-weekly trips to Target.
It wasn’t just sold out. The entire soup section had been made over, and there was no sign of the beloved Archer Farms Italian Wedding Soup she ate for lunch at least three days a week. After trying to convince her that the manager couldn’t reinstate a discontinued product despite the fact that she’d just presented it for her “Favorite Things” project at school, I promised her that we’d find another Italian wedding soup just as good; and if not, I’d replicate it myself.
The search was long and arduous. We tried brand after brand and none of them matched up. Some had carrots (the horror), others had no pasta (unacceptable), some were too salty, some were too bland, and some were banned by me because the ingredients were unpronounceable.
My mom made a homemade version that nailed the same flavor as the original, but it got a “thumbs sideways” because of the too-big meatballs, the use of escarole instead of spinach, and the lack of “tiny pasta balls” that made Favorite Soup the all-time favorite.
So I took the recipe my mom used (from Giada DeLaurentis) and tweaked it to recreate the long-lost Italian wedding soup that my daughter was pining for. The upside to making it myself was that I could use good, quality ingredients, and I could eliminate the parmesan cheese to make it dairy-free so that my other daughter with food allergies could enjoy it as well.
We all loved it, and I’ve been making it in double-batches ever since. This soup is delicious, comforting, and hearty enough for dinner, especially if you serve it with a salad and some good, fresh crusty bread.
Cooking Note #1: Now that I know that my Italian wedding soup recipe is a winner, I always double the meatball part of the recipe, and freeze half of the meatballs for later so that I can quickly make another batch. To do this, just form the second set of meatballs on a baking sheet, and place the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the meatballs are frozen completely, put them into a gallon freezer bag. The next time you want to make this soup, just boil the broth, toss in the spinach, frozen meatballs, and pasta, and cook until the pasta and meatballs are done.
Cooking Note #2: If you can’t find Acini de Pepe (the name of the tiny pasta balls I use in this recipe), any sort of small noodle will do, such as ditalini or small shells. Someone in the comments also suggested substituting Israeli couscous, which is also a great idea.
Cooking Note #3: If you own a food processor, you can speed things up by grating/chopping the onion, parsley, garlic, and even the bread right in the processor. If you don’t own one, no worries! It can still be made quickly and easily using a regular grater and a knife. (By the way, if anyone’s in the market for a food processor, here’s the 11-cup food processor I use. I’ve had it for years, and I love it!)
FAVORITE ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
A delicious Italian Wedding soup recipe containing pasta, meatballs, spinach, and a flavorful broth.
- 1 small onion grated
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 slice white bread crusts trimmed, grated or shredded
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan optional
- 8 oz ground beef
- 8 oz ground pork
- 12 cups chicken broth
- 1 box frozen chopped spinach
- approx 6-8 oz of Acini de Pepe or other tiny pasta*
- 2 tbsp parmesan optional
- To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Then add the cheese, beef, and pork. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, and place on a baking sheet. I prefer the meatballs to be on the smaller side, but you can make them any size you want.
- To make the soup: Bring the broth and frozen spinach to a boil in a large pot. Add the meatballs (uncooked) and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't stick. Add the pasta and continue cooking at a low boil until both the pasta and meatballs are cooked (approx 20 minutes). Season with salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving, if you wish.
*I use about 8 oz, but we like a lot of pasta in our soup, so use less if you'd prefer it more brothy.
After you’ve made this soup, be sure to check out my family’s other favorite soup: AUTHENTIC ITALIAN PASTA E FAGIOLI